Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Now fast forward a few months and while I still get excited every week when I put my bins out, I'm also frustrated. See, each trash morning I look around my neighborhood and see a tiny handful of people have their bins out and even those that do have very little in them, but their trash cans are full. This makes me sad.
Tomorrow morning is our trash day and while trash cans are slowly making their way out tonight I counted only 5 bins out on two blocks and this is an improvement. From what I have heard around town I think people are still confused about the new trash system and that more education is needed. I do plan to bring this up at the next local recycling coalition (which I'm a member of) meeting.
My other frustration this week is the fact that a neighbor has fluorescent tubes sitting in their trash can. I don't know if I should go get them out or leave them. The house is up for sale so the owners are never there so I can't talk to them about it. There seems to be a fine line between being a good citizen and getting into other people's business. Around here the line is even finer.
So do you ever have green frustrations like this? If so, what do you do about them?
Monday, January 30, 2012
Saturday, January 28, 2012
Growing up, I always considered my dog part of our family. And she thought she was people too.
Today, it's taken to a whole new level.
Our pampering and giving ourselves what we "deserve" doesn't stop with us. Our four-legged friends are getting better treatment than you'd believe. Manicures. Massages. Bling. Imported wool sweaters to keep them cozy. And being medicated with their own flat-screen TV to alleviate boredom while at doggie day care.
Spoiled pooches are nothing new. But I was shocked to read yesterday that pet owners spent $51 billion - yes, that's with a b - on pet stuff last year. That's far more than meals and a cozy bed or house to sleep in.
In fact, "That's more than they spent -- combined -- on movies ($18.5 billion), video games ($25 billion) and digital music ($5.2 billion)," the reporter wrote.
Have we lost so much of our senses and become so obsessed with crap that we need to overwhelm our pets as well? Where does it all stop?
What if we took one tenth of that excess and gave it to supportanimal shelters or programs to stop animal cruelty? Or heaven forbid, help people in a time where at least one in 10 of your neighbors is still out of work?
So today, I'm pitching an idea: Hold off on a tiny piece of excess. Maybe it's the designer doggie treats. Or a people treat if you're a non-pet owner. Take that $5, that $10, that $20 and use it instead to make a difference. Just imagine the impact we could make!
Readers: I'm challenging you to do this - and share how this little change helped our world!
Friday, January 27, 2012
Back in September, I traded in my minivan for a Prius. Almost immediately, I went through withdrawals - as evidenced by this post. I missed the ability to schlep dozens of kids and some random piece of furniture picked up at a garage sale. I missed the cavernous interior which put the kids out of kicking the back seat and hitting each other range. Heck, it nearly put them out of ear shot which, depending on the day, was a good or bad thing.
A few months later and you couldn't pay me to get back in a minivan or SUV. My driving habits and outlook have done a 180. What follows are life lessons that I learned from driving a Prius:
1) Small Is Beautiful. Size does matter and bigger is not better. Bigger means less parking spaces and more dings and dents. It means that fire hydrant is closer when you are backing up. Smaller means I can squeeze in just about anywhere. I can have a meaningful conversation with my kids or ask them to do something with them actually hearing me. It means there is more space in the garage and that nothing goes to waste.
2) Life is a Journey. Not a Race. My Prius (and I believe most hybrids) has a handy monitor that continually displays miles per gallon (MPG) and whether you are in gas or electric mode. I confess that I used to gun it off the line and when getting on to the freeway. No more. I ease on the accelerator from stoplight or stop sign, watching just how much gasoline is being used. That may mean that I don't make it to the fast lane if I'm on a short freeway trip. That's cool. Life in the slow lane is sometimes more interesting anyway.
3) Silence Is Golden. At stoplights these days, I often look around. Who is making all the ruckus? Seriously. I'm over here enjoying a song on the radio or a conversation, cruising in electric mode. Which means I'm enjoying the peace and quiet.
5) Coast When You Can. Going up hill can burn some serious gas and, let's face, life throws us some hills now and then. So coast when you can. Take it easy, take your foot off the accelerator, and just cruise.
6) Try No to Lose Momentum. Sometimes, we hit road blocks in life and on the road. And, as we all know, once you've lost momentum, its hard to get up and moving again. Same goes for our cars so I hit the brakes way before a stop light and coast in, hoping it will change for me.
7) We All Are a Bit Granny, A Bit Race Car Driver. I take the straightaways at 25 and the curves at 30. I finally understand (kind of) hypermiling thanks to the MPG display. Just ease off the brakes and take that curve like a mad woman. You'll come out of it faster, with momentum, not gasoline, propelling you.
You Don't Need to Own a Hybrid To Learn These Lessons. Sure, the MPG monitor is super nifty. And I really think we'd all drive a lot more fuel efficiently if every car had one of these. Hypermiling, though, is something anyone can do as is coasting, taking it easy off the line, and just watching your foot on that accelerator. And size? After years of bigger, bigger, bigger, I think we are finally coming out the other side.
We only need what we actually need. What we'll use. Efficiency feels awesome!
* Note the "Best" MPG. Prius has this feature too so that those of us competitive sorts can compete with ourselves and trot our our numbers with other hybrid drivers. I do quite a bit of city driving and very little driving on the freeway, which results in a lower "best" MPG than the advertised 51 MPG. Still, much better than the 16 or so MPG I used to get from the ole van.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
I started making my own whole wheat bread about a year ago.
At first, I stored my bread in plastic bags that I'd kept from store-bought bread. One of the benefits of homemade over store-bought is that you can use reusable rather than disposable packaging.
But I didn't like using the plastic bags. For one thing, they aren't really made for long-term use and aren't particularly durable. Also, it's actually a bit of work to undo a twist tie and untwist a plastic bag to take out the loaf so you can slice it. And then you have to put back the loaf, twist up the bag, and put on the twist tie again. So I started looking for a container. Eventually, my sister gave me a plastic CD container (#5 polypropylene) to store the bread in. It was the perfect size and the lid was easy to take on and off. I could easily do it one-handed.
But after a while, I started to wonder about the plastic. Almost all plastics have mysterious undisclosed additives Plus it seems like they are adding triclosan to all kinds of stuff these days. And my bread container wasn't even intended for food storage, so who knows what it had in it. So I started looking for alternatives, hopefully something plastic-free or almost plastic-free.
I checked out My Plastic-Free Life to see what solution Beth Terry had come with. She puts bread in a cloth bag and then puts the bag inside a metal popcorn tin. That's a great idea, and it's plastic-free, but way too cumbersome for someone slicing bread lots of times in a single day with hungry children waiting.
Ideally, I was looking for a glass or stainless steel container -- a plastic lid was fine with me. But no one seemed to make a container the right size. I thought about a steel bread box, but it seems they aren't air tight at all, and are more for looks (keeping all bread products neatly tucked away in their respective plastic bags) than for utility. Eventually, I found a glass container with plastic lid at our local container store that looked promising. Sadly, it was just a little too short to work.
I was feeling pretty stumped. I even asked the other Boothers for advice. And then one day, the solution just came to me.
Now I store my homemade bread on a wood cutting board with the old plastic CD container inverted on top of it. So I'm still using plastic, but the plastic isn't touching my bread at least. Not plastic-free, but perhaps we could say plastic-lite. When the loaf is partly used up, I'm able to turn the loaf cut-side down. This is not an airtight system, but it keeps out enough air to keep my bread fresh and yummy for nearly a week, which is as long as a loaf ever lasts at my house anyway.
P.S. I bake bread 4 loaves at a time. I freeze 3 of them.... in plastic bags. No solution in sight.
How do you store your homemade bread?
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
This is not a new story, this has been happening for a long time. You have cancer organizations taking money from products that are linked to cancer, the Sierra Club has joined up with Clorox, and in my own town a cement plant is funding a green expo. This seems to be going on everywhere and the latest one to come to light is the National Wildlife Federation joining up with Scotts Miracle-Gro.
Yes a group that's mission is to stop climate change and "safeguarding America's wildlife and wild places" has teamed up with a corporation that makes billions of dollars a year selling pesticides and other chemicals, including Roundup, which is owned by Monsanto. How is this going to "safeguard" our "wildlife and wild places"?
So is what Scotts has to offer worth the price? According to Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of NWF, it is. He had this to say in a press release from Scotts.
"National Wildlife Federation and Scotts are committed to getting millions more children to play outdoors on a regular basis. This relationship is a win for American childhood, because together we will help families raise healthier and happier children who have a lifelong commitment to protecting wildlife and the natural world."
Sounds nice, I agree that kids should be outside more but do you want your kids playing in a yard that was sprayed with Roundup? And how can a company that makes products that harms wildlife and "the natural world" be committed to protecting it?
Let the National Wildlife Federation know how you feel about them teaming up with Scotts.
- Call NWF at 1-800-822-9919, they are open M-F 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST
- Post a comment on NWF's Facebook page
- Leave a comment on their website
- Tweet a message to @NWF
Scott's reply on one of the comments-
"I work for ScottsMiracle-Gro and can assure you that this partnership in no way means that NWF endorses our products. I can also tell you that we have no intention of influencing NWF’s Certified Wildlife Habitat program, which we greatly respect and support."
I feel people will take this as an endorsement and how can Scotts support something their products couldn't be apart of? Seems like a classic case of greenwashing to me.
Monday, January 23, 2012
Remember last week, when I put my desire to lose weight and eat better (no Slim-Fast shakes here!) out there in print, to keep myself a little more accountable?
Well...it's going fine so far. I've found myself craving big crunchy salads, eating less of everything but what I'm eating has a really high percentage of Good For My Body stuff, drinking tea by the liter. Gallon, practically. It's good. (Except that my body is telling me I need a little more animal protein; I'm starting to feel that "off" way I did when I was completely vegetarian for a few months. But I'll do it right.)
I'm in the middle of a nasty virus, and last night I totally didn't feel like cooking anything at all. But we were hungry. And Saturday night we'd caved and gotten Chinese (mostly because, diet or no diet, our local place has this amazing hot spicy noodle soup that hits the spot when I'm sick--clears my sinuses right out), so I didn't want to do crap again.
So I threw some things in a pot. And ignored them for 40 minutes. And dinner was amazing.
You gotta try this:
Lentil Barley Risotto/Soup
- Saute a small onion and some garlic in a little olive oil
- Add a few ribs chopped celery and a couple of chopped carrots, saute a little longer
- Add a can diced tomatoes and 1 quart vegetable (or chicken) broth; bring to boil (Toss in a teaspoon or thyme or a bay leaf if you want.)
- Throw in half a cup each pearl barley and rinsed green (or brown) lentils; bring back to boil (use less of each if you want a real "soup."
- Lower heat to slow simmer.
- Stir every so often to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom, over the next 40 minutes or so. (Stir more as it gets thicker and closer to done (you may want to lower heat even more).
- Correct seasonings, add a little salt and pepper if it needs it, and serve with a little Parmesan if you want.
Saturday, January 21, 2012
My "dumb phone" is dying.
As it approaches its third year of life, my phone - which can barely receive my Twitter repsonses for my work account, let alone send photos or surf the web - is dying, making the sound of battery death more and more frequently and dropping off the the network completely. And my work duties really mean I should have a data plan. (I suspect, too, that my husband would like an upgrade too!)
And so we've started the hunt for a new smart phone.
My biggest issue about smart phones - other than the much higher costs - is that I'll likely use it far more frequently, and our exposure to radiation, however small, could be a concern. I realize that the jury may still be out on the link between cell phones and cancer, but I recognize that the device would be tucked in my pocket or purse for hours a day, and there's no harm in limiting risk.
So I checked out the Environmental Working Group's list of top 10 safest phones, which to my dismay wasn't updated since December 2010. Since new phones are released all the time, I'm surprised this hasn't been updated in more than a year. I was also able to find a list of smart phones (undated), which I may be able to cross-reference once I find a finalist or two from the functionality end.
With no clear answer on what my next phone will bring, how can I limit my exposure? The Environmental Working Group has some ideas:
- Text instead of talk, as it emits less radiation (and data use).
- Use headsets or speakers.
- If you have fewer bars, limit your use, as it takes more radiation to make it to the tower!
- Limit children's cell phone use - ideally to emergencies only. Is Angry Birds really worth it?
Friday, January 20, 2012
Two weeks ago Andrew and I decided that instead of the typical "New Year's Resolutions" that always make me feel guilty and inevitably fail (mostly because I forget about them), we carved out one small lifestyle change (and I art-ed about a few Life Journey stuffs I wanted to realize).
Previous to that we were averaging about four of these bad boys a week, and my dry compost pile (and ridiculous amount of gross preservatives and unhealthy nutrition) was piling up. It was just so much easier to have a meal in 10 minutes (KD) than 45min. That and a few other obstacles (check out the post for details) meant it felt like a daunting task.
Surprisingly, these past two weeks have been a fabulous success! We stuck to our 1 pre-made meal (ordered pizza on Sunday) and we've survived. A few things that I feel have helped so far:
- Sitting and chatting about this life change together. Sometimes I get excited and make all these changes or plans without consulting Andrew. As a result, they often feel like "my" goals or plans, placing the onus solely on myself. I feel burdened, stressed and guilty and ultimately it fails. This time we sat down around coffee (fair trade organic!), chatted about what we'd BOTH like to change and made a decision together.
- Meal planning. So far each Sunday we've sat down and planned what we'd like to eat for the week. Then (after some coffee) we head out to the market and grocery store to purchase what we need.
- Choosing some easy meals and some more involved meals. Tonight we had chicken quesadillas. Easy peasy that I used to make during my undergrad.
- We make our meals together. I can't emphasize enough how much easier cooking healthier meals can be when I have a cooking partner. We both take on important roles and do our fair share of the work. Then we thank each other for the lovely meal. :)
EcoYogini's Ginger Beef (modified from Chef Michael Smith's "Chef at Home" recipe)
cubed beef (if you can find grass fed beef that would be ideal- confession, we didn't...:S)
1 knob of ginger, thinly sliced
1 cup of organic beef broth (or broth you made yourself! we are not that crafty yet, small steps!)
1 jar of orange marmalade (again, if you made this yourself that is seriously fab)
1 cup of orange juice
1 tbsp of 5 spice powder
1 clove of garlic, chopped.
Prior to searing, salt the beef (Andrew used Kosher salt). In a large-ish pot (we used our awesome Green Pan dutch oven-y thingy), heat the pan and using tongs sear the beef (Andrew flips them once to sear two sides: "It's a lot of beef").
Take the beef out and put it aside.
Add the ginger with the beef juices (ick) until it softens, then add the garlic.
Re-insert the beef and add the liquids (and marmalade and the spice powder).
Put on a tight fitting lid and let simmer for about an hour.
Serve with rice and veggies of choice! It tastes so deliciously like yummy spicy citrus. We had enough left over for my lunch today as well. Here's to hoping this meal planning, sans boxed healthy eating lasts past the one month mark!
Thursday, January 19, 2012
The Kelly Green Giant has a fairly brownish thumb, but she knows how to raise little boys, rosemary plants, and backyard chickens.
When I found out that I was going to need a risky brain surgery early this summer, I asked my husband if we could get chickens if I made it through the surgery. Needless to say, he couldn't really say no to my poultry desires, and we have been enjoying our seven Easter Egger chickens ever since. Any day now, they should begin laying multi-colored pastel eggs. In addition to being fun, they are also good for the environment. Why?
1. Chickens can eat a lot of food scraps and food that would otherwise be wasted.
2. Chickens make their own compost!
After chickens eat all that delicious food, they make lots of great compost. Don’t apply chicken poop directly on your garden beds, though, because it is a little too potent. Put it in your compost pile, let the compost pile work its magic for a few months, and then shovel it onto whatever garden bed needs some serious nutrient enrichment.
3. Backyard chickens create high-quality, complete protein that is about as local as it gets.
Eating local food, and especially producing your own food, is great for the environment, because it takes much less energy to transport the food from its origins to your plate. And even if you don’t have a green thumb or don’t have enough sunshine for a successful vegetable garden, you can easily produce a lot of eggs and trade with your friends and neighbors!
What are you producing in your backyard?
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Some of the Booth bloggers are targeting food as a way to lessen their impact on Climate Change. Retro Housewife Goes Green has resolved to reduce food waste and, both she and Eco-Novice, plan to make more food from scratch this year.
Eco-Novice and Emerald Apron both take aim at energy use. Emerald Apron resolves to line dry some laundry this year, as she and her family have been making excuses about using the dryer for a long time. Similarly, Eco-Novice swears to turn off the power strips at night - something she's been meaning to do for years.
The HomeGrown Mama plans to "get her act together" and remember her reusable grocery bags. That, of course, might mean that she does not attempt to grocery shop with two children, sale flyers and coupons.
Green Bean resolves to move beyond personal environmentalism to activism - whether on the city level, at a Keystone Pipeline action or even just talking more about Climate Change amongst those in her personal circle.
What actions do you intend to take this year to address Climate Change? To read what the women of the Green Moms Carnival are doing, check out Strocel.com on January 23.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 cup sucanat (could cut this a bit and/or replace some with honey)
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 3 medium ripe bananas (1-2 cups mashed)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/3 cup hot water
- Mix the melted butter, sugar, mashed bananas and eggs very well.
- In a separate bowl, stir together flours, salt, and baking soda.
- Add dry ingredients to banana mixture, alternately with hot water.
- Oil the pan.
- Scoop the batter into the pan.
- Bake in a preheated 325 degree F oven for about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
- Test with a toothpick (or cake tester) to make to make sure it’s done.
Monday, January 16, 2012
Saturday, January 14, 2012
When I first began my eco-journey, I was certain I was alone. After all, I had grown up in a home with cloth napkins, homemade bread, line-dried laundry and almost no processed foods with no friends like me. I had heard my mother complain how difficult it is to be different. I knew first hand how many conversations can go awry when someone doesn't understand your need to eat locally produced foods. Since I knew that no one in my immediate circle of friends was going to want to spend time discussing pesticides in conventionally produced foods, I turned to the internet.
Through the internet and the wonderful world of blogging, I've made friends, learned new skills and am now actually becoming connected with other mothers who as I've started to talk and ask questions I've found are actually from the same town as I am! Can I just say how refreshing it is to actually be able to sit down and have a cup of coffee with another mom who is on a mission to improve their family's life? Finding these real life friends is akin to that first bunch of asparagus from the Spring farmer's market for me. Thank goodness for Facebook, right?
In the meantime, if you're waiting for your new eco best friend to show up, here are a few places I like to frequent for reference, answers and support:
- http://naturemoms.com/blog/ (bonus for me: this blog is written by a mom in Ohio)
- And, of course, the Green Phone Booth and all the wonderful Eco-Super Heroes personal sites!
Friday, January 13, 2012
Despite what the calendar year tells me, my "new year" felt like it began back in October. After the summer harvest, my attention turned to starting over. My lofty goal: to make our property more productive. Here's a progress report:
Step #1 = Construction of berms and swales, the planning of which began back in July, and for which the supply-gathering happened in September.
I'd thought about where to site the swales, but before we dug anything out, I had to determine the yard's contours, and mark them. I identified the contours with little A-frame which Mr. Truffula made me from scrap wood.
|Bricks, rocks, and stray mugs were all pressed into service as swale and berm markers|
Next, it was sandwiching time! I soaked newspaper in rain barrel water. I then covered each berm with generous, overlapping layers of paper. The wet paper went down with satisfying plops!
I covered the newspaper with several inches of composted manure. Another layer of wet paper went down on top of that. This second installment of paper likewise received a few inches of manure on it.
Finally, I covered the finished mounds with a nice dose of straw. The straw had gotten rained on (torrentially!) right after I got it home. That actually made it easier to slap onto the sides of the berms.
|A "cut-away" of my berm construction = soil + manure + newspaper + manure + straw|
Coarse wood chips went into the swales. (In the future, I hope to inoculate the chips with mushroom spore.)
I intended to allow the berms to rest over the winter. But, I visited a friend doing a similar project in her yard, and saw her adorable kale and arugula seedlings coming up, I had to follow suit.
Step #2 = Low tunnel construction
I moved on to my next research project: figuring out my season extension. I immersed myself in Eliot Coleman's books, the finer points of floating row cover, and the how-to's of making low tunnels (or hoop houses).
In the end, I bought Agribon-19, a fairly light-weight fabric. Coleman points out that you want light, air, and moisture to pass through your row cover,and that it is the soil which stores the heat in those chilly times. That made me decide against heavier fabrics. They would have afforded a few degrees more of frost protection, but have blocked out more light from getting to the soil and warming it.
My frugal inner gardener also debated whether I should install row cover alone, plastic sheeting alone, or a combination of both. Coleman convinced me to try one low tunnel of row cover only, and one combined one.
The hoops for the tunnel are 10-foot lengths of 1/2-inch metal electrical conduit. A friend has this hoop bender, and Mr. Truffula and I used it to create hoops.
There are a few options for setting up the hoops. I put them directly into the soil, sinking them in as far as the clay would allow (read: a few more inches in would have been helpful).
We did the hoopin' last week -- it was a family affair, with all TruffulaBoyz and TruffulaParents on deck. Of course, we did this on what was until then the coldest day of the season. It was also windy, requiring choreography to avoid a full sail imitation on the part of the plastic sheeting. The bad part of this weather situation was that our hands so became so chilly that we could hardly move them. The good part was that we could immediately feel the difference provided by the sheeting + row cover combo on the second tunnel. It felt downright balmy in there as soon as body parts were out of the wind, and benefiting from the passive solar heating.
|My finished low tunnels. |
The left one has only row cover on it. The right one has plastic sheeting with an inner row cover layer.
So far, the plastic sheeting is staying in place just from the tension I put at either end of the tunnel. I gathered the plastic, tied twine around it, and attached it to a stake.
Sorry, I could not resist showing off my precious kale seedlings... aren't they cute?! Ideally, they would have been near maturity before the short winter days kicked in. Nevertheless, they are holding their own, and some will find their way into the pot very soon as thinnings.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Eco-novice gets educated.
Interested in learning more about plastics?
Pick up a copy of Plastic: A Toxic Love Story.
I checked out a copy from the library a few months ago and was planning to mostly browse the book (I mean, how much does anybody really want to read about plastics, for heaven's sake?). But I ended up reading almost all of the chapters in their entirety. Through the lens of iconic plastic products (the Bic lighter, the frisbee, blood bags, plastic beverage bottles, plastic bags, etc.), each chapter explores the history and issues surrounding a certain aspect of plastics. I found the chapters on plastics in humans, plastic in the oceans and the rise of disposable products, and plastics recycling especially interesting. A few favorite passages from the book:
Are Plastics Really Toxic?
Almost invariably, when an epidemiological study reports a risk associated with phthalates, the group [the American Chemistry Council] counters with a press release pointing out that the study shows a correlation only, not proof of a causal effect. Which is true – that’s precisely what epidemiological studies do. Still, the correlations highlighted by epidemiological studies have long been the gold standard for assessing risks to public health. The insistent focus on the flaws of each individual study ignores – and obscures—how each may be contributing to an increasingly disturbing body of evidence. . . It’s a strategy taken straight from the tobacco industry.Plastic in the Oceans
[M]ost worrisome of all is plastic pollution of the oceans…One expert estimated as much as 1.6 billion pounds of plastics ends up in the oceans each year…A key question researchers are now asking is whether that plastic – and the toxins it can carry – is getting into the food chain. Is our plastic trash winding up back on our dinner plates?The Rise of the Disposable Society
Initially, [disposable] products were a tough sell – at least to the generation that had come up through the Depression…The ethos of reuse was so deeply ingrained that in the mid-1950s when vending machines began dispensing coffee in plastic cups, people saved and reused them. They had to learn—and be taught – to throw away…We learned to throw away so well that today half of all plastics produced go into single-use applications.Life Before Curbside Trash Pickup
For much of the United States’ history, Americans produced relatively little trash. Packaging, now one of the largest portions of the waste stream, scarcely existed. Most food and goods were sold in bulk…Reuse was a daily habit. Women cooked food scraps into soup and fed leftovers to the pigs and chickens most households kept. Old clothes were mended, disassembled for rags, or made into new outfits. Broken objects were repaired, dismantled for their parts, or sold to itinerant peddlers, who in turn broke them down and sold the metals, glass, rags, leather, and other materials back to industry…Things that could not be used in any way were burned [for heat, cooking fuel]. ..These kinds of informal recycling systems began to fade in the early twentieth century…the products and materials entering American lives increasingly had just one final destination: the garbage can. Waste was no longer a source of potential value or opportunity; it was a problem.The Role of Plastics in (over-)Consumption
[T]he greening of Plasticville will require more than just technological fixes. It also requires us to address the careless, and sometimes ravenous, habits of consumption that were enabled by the arrival of plastic and plastic money…It means grappling with what historian Jeffrey Meikle called our ‘inflationary culture,’ one in which we invest ever more of our psychological well-being in acquiring things while also considering them of such low value ‘as to encourage their displacement, their disposal, their quick and total consumption.’
If you haven't got the time or inclination to read an entire book on the history of plastics, try watching the documentary Bag It. I watched it after reading Plastic: A Toxic Love Story, and found that it covered many of the same topics, although with less depth of course. For practical tips on how to eliminate and replace plastic products, stay tuned for the soon-to-be-released book Plastic Free by Beth Terry of My Plastic-Free Life.
I'll close with a quote about plastics (found in Plastic: A Toxic Love Story) from Joel Tickner, associate professor of environmental health at the University of Massachusetts:
"I’d rather change the rules so people don’t have to worry about this [toxins in plastics] than spend all my time worrying about it.” Joel Tickner, assoc. professor of env. Health at U. of mass.In light of that sentiment, if you haven't already, please sign and share this petition asking Congress for desperately-needed toxic chemical reform. And maybe someday, we'll all be able to spend less time worrying about plastic.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Hello! I'm so excited to be sharing my journey to sustainability from the trenches of motherhood in Ohio! As a long time reader of The Green Phone Booth, I cannot tell you how much fun it is to don my own cape and participate with everyone!
I grew up in a home that was eco-friendly in the sense that it's often the most frugal lifestyle. I often laugh that we didn't use paper towels until I was in high school! I have a Bachelor of Science in Biology and after my graduation from college, I became a Biologist for the Toxicology department at a contract research lab. Many of the studies I worked on required that Tyvek suits and respirators be worn at all times. At some point during the first year of my employment, I experienced health problems and became curious about the studies I was working on and a possible connection to my health. What resulted was an intense desire to rid my home of chemicals and a personal need to become less reliant on conventional products.
So now, here I am, 5 years and 2 kids later. My determination is to live a natural life. This desire for a life that is as free from waste and toxins as possible is fueled by my hope to make sure my children get the benefit of a healthy childhood to be the cornerstone for their amazing lives. We cook from scratch and cloth diaper. We play outside and are a little antsy to get our garden started. We live the way we do because my husband and I truly believe it's better. Not better in the I'm-awesome-and-you're-not-sense, but better for our lives, or children and our world. And if I'm really being honest, I like living this way!
This year, I'm working my way through a list of Eco-wishes:
- Plant our garden! I'd like to produce a sizable amount of our food both for consumption and preservation, so I'm working on plans and writing out my seed orders. Since I am hoping to keep the garden producing up to the last frost, I'm going to have to learn a little bit about succession planting, too!
- What we don't produce in the garden, I hope to find from local sources. Sometimes, it takes some work, but I love knowing that the food on my table was produced within an hour of our home!
- Host another Low Impact (First) Birthday for my daughter in April. We will be hosting it at the local Children's Museum, so I will have to plan ahead since everything will have to be transported to the site.
- Successfully switch our food storage over to glass or stainless steel. This includes the containers for my freezer cooking and the kids' dinnerware.
- Since we moved to this house, there's been no landscaping and I hope to plant some native shrubs and ground cover in addition to some fruit trees!
- And finally, starting this spring, I plan to line dry all our laundry (with the exception of disaster laundry loads or laundry that gets caught in a rainstorm). Last summer, I only used the dryer 5 times in the month of August (considering that I do roughly 7 loads of laundry a week, this was huge) and the impact on our electric bill was significant enough that even though I had been running the stove daily for canning and we had fans and the air conditioner running due to the miserable heat, our bill only went up 2 dollars!
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
- Purge! Most of us have way more stuff than we need, so the first step should be to try and get rid of things you aren't using. If you can donate the items, if not see if you can recycle them.
- Clean and organize before buying boxes and things, this way you know what you need.
- Use what you have. Look around for boxes and baskets you already have that can be used to organize.
- Go DIY. Pinterest has all kinds of ideas for ways to make cute organizers out of things from your recycling bin. Just search around there and Google and you are sure to find some great ideas. For example cereal boxes can be cut and wrapped in pretty paper to make a magazine holder.
- If you have to buy look for good quality containers made from greener materials like natural fiber baskets, bamboo, eco-friendly wood, or at least stainless steel or recycled plastic.
Saturday, January 7, 2012
Fifty-eight degrees, Indiana and January. Typically, the only way those words are thrown together in the same sentence are "I hate January in Indiana and want to go __where it's 58 degrees."
But a fortunate blast of warm air has treated us in the last day or so, going from a week starting with frosted windshields and snow-dusted lawns to a welcoming weekend where I can actually comfortably let the kids play outside without too many arguments over clothing.
Heck, the blueberry bushes and trees even think it's spring. The tiniest of buds started displaying right around Christmas.
I'm sure soon enough we'll pay the price for unseasonably warm weather, but for now I'll take advantage of it with long walks, an afternoon at the park, and even some garden work that doesn't involve me longingly flipping through catalogs or marking my favorites on Pinterest.
Yes, I figure now's the time to start thinking about some early garden preparation. There are few things more disheartening than a few hours of garden cleanup when what you really want to do is plant those spring peas, so you might as well whittle away at that list now.
So what can you do on a mild January day in the Midwest? Here are a few ideas:
- Make progress on your weeding. Those weeds are enjoying the springlike weather too!
- Clean your garden bed if you haven't already. Unless it's a perennial plant, yank it up and compost (provided it's not diseased), or you've created a haven for pests.
- Make sure your mulch is up to snuff for when the winter weather does strike. (If you've been slow to dispose of that Christmas tree, pine needles do work!)
- Turn your compost pile, if you've been lazy about it during the hectic holiday season. (And make sure to keep it sponge-like damp if you're going through a dry stretch like we are!)
- Plant bare-root trees or plants.
- Consider trying to plant short-term winter crops, like spinach, bok choy, radishes, carrots or winter lettuces. That sprinkling of extra seeds could have some unanticipated payoffs!
- Test your soil if you haven't done that in recent years, and add any amendments that you may need. (Compost is always welcome!)
As for me, while my children are racing around outdoors, I'll likely do some weeding, rework my compost pile that hasn't composted quite as well as I thought it should and probably tempt myself to plant some seeds, guaranteeing we'll soon get the first big snow of the year!
How is your weather? Are you taking advantage of warmer temperatures to get a head start on spring?
Thursday, January 5, 2012
Brought to you from the snowy lands of Canadiana- EcoYogini
Hello! Bonjour! I am so excited to be writing to you all from my warm Canadian apartment as the snow gently falls outside my window. I've been a reader of The Green Phone Booth almost since I started blogging and I feel honoured to be sharing my "Eco Journey" amidst such fabulous Boothers and wonderful readers.
Recently I've had a few experiences that have made me pause and question why exactly I do all the little (and big!) things I do for our planet. You'd think that Yogis would be all a bunch of tree-hugging hippies.... but that is so far from the truth. When I first started reading blogs I was shocked at how many yogis would go on about ahimsa (non-harming) and all that woo-woo stuff then switch to all the pvc, disposable yoga-lifestyle crap they've purchased/used/want. Now with the Americanization of Yoga, I'm less surprised by all the "non-yogic" behaviours and wasteful habits that go along with the Industry Machine called Yoga.
However, just because I'm not longer shocked when a Lulu-lemming drinks her unethical, slave labour coffee out of a disposable cup while lounging in her Made in China Lululemon clothing and her PVC (or better yet, greenwashed "biodegradable") yoga mat, doesn't mean I've given up.
Yes the consumeristic industries that make up our lives may be too big for me to change alone. Yes Canada has had THE worst year yet for the environment under the ridiculously shameful reign of Stephen Harper (Kyoto what?). And yes it would be inappropriate for me to bully every single person I meet into being as eco-cool as we, us Eco-Peeps, are...
But then, cultural change never happens overnight eh? (I give you permission to superimpose a silly uber Canadian accent on that sentence, even though my accent is more "francophone" IRL :) ).
- It's the cool thing to do and we are hip
- I care about what toxins and chemicals that I put in my body. I've had too many family and friends get ill and/or die from cancer (or other illnesses) to be ok with pesticides in my food.
- We're happier and healthier living this way.
- It meshes with my spiritual and political ideals.
- This is our One and Only Planet and we plan on having children one day. These children will need a safe, healthy and clean place to live. Why would we want to trash the only place that our future children could call home? I want them to enjoy clean and healthy forests, to be able to walk outside and breathe air freely, to not worry about skin cancer, unstable weather formations or where they can find clean drinking water or safe food.
So, Un Gros Gros Merci to The Green Phone Booth for welcoming me into their superhero fold and I look forward to all the eco-fun we're going to have over the upcoming months!
My son was recently diagnosed with a severe dairy allergy, and it really made me look much more closely at the food we eat. We were never big on fast food or processed food, but now we can't even stop for McDonald's french fries in a pinch - they are not dairy free. So many processed foods have tiny traces of dairy that could make my son very sick, in addition to having many ingredients that I can't even pronounce or recognize. Most loaves of bread in the grocery store have milk. Many brands of pretzels and crackers and chips and cookies have milk. Most jars of spaghetti sauce have - you guessed it - cheese! Margarine contains milk. Even many soy cheeses and yogurts include small amounts of dairy amongst their ingredients. So often, we may not even pay much attention to what is in our food until it really matters.
In many ways, I think that our departure from eating whole foods and from spending time outside in the sunshine has made us sicker. Incidence of food allergies is rising steeply, especially among children. In one interesting Australian study, food allergy rates are correlated with latitude, suggesting that increased sun exposure seems to have a protective effect against developing food allergies.
But besides spending more time out in the sunshine making vitamin D, and besides putting more whole foods in our bodies, how can we address the existing allergies? Most importantly, as a good rule of thumb, don't serve any food to any child without asking their parent first. If possible, avoid processed foods and serve either homemade treats, or serve the best snack of all - fresh fruits and vegetables, with a big glass of water.
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Disclaimer: I have not received any compensation for this review, and all opinions expressed are my own.
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Fighting Climate Change from her Canadian perch, EcoYogini uses “Yoga Fire” and other such various moves to protect our planet. By day she's a Francophone Speech-Language Pathologist, but by night her Mudras emerge to reveal an apartment dwelling, lobster loving, Kick-Asana Eco-Heroine!
fix her brain but couldn’t quite get all the green out. She spends her days chasing her preschool-age son and usually another boy or two she collects along the way, hanging loads of laundry on the clothesline,
feeding compost to her backyard chickens, taking every freelance writing opportunity that comes her way, and studying to be a nurse.