Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Giving Up Boxed Cereals
OK, I'll admit, I'm not sure what, if any, ill affects boxed cereals present, but Hot Damn! homemade granola just tastes awesome! Also, after flipping through the Omnivore's Dilemma, I'm now a little freaked out by all the corn syrup solids my family consumes. This winter will find us dining on Old Fashioned Oats with brown sugar and momma's homemade granola.
Here's my yum-tastic recipe, which is a tweaked version of what sister Heather gave me (thanks, H!):
4 c. Rolled Oats
1/2 c. Crunched Up Pecans
1 1/2 c. Shredded Coconut
3/4 c. Raisins
3/4 c. Dates
1 c. Sliced Almonds
1/4 c. Wheat Germ
1/4 c. Flax Seed Meal
1/4 c. Coconut Oil
1/4 c. Honey
1/4 c. Brown Sugar
Put all the dry ingredients into a big bowl. Take the wet ingredients and nuke em up together until the coconut oil is all melted. Mix them well and dump the wet stuff over the dry stuff. Mix it all up and spread it out on a couple cookie sheets. Toss it into the oven at about 300 degrees for 20 - 30 minutes (stir it a couple of times while it's in there) until it gets golden brown. Remove from oven, let cool, and store in an airtight container.
Um, a cardboard box and plastic bag every single week. The downside? I'm using several plastic bags for the ingredients. But since the granola batch lasts at least two weeks, and I don't use an entire bag of anything in one batch, I think I'm ahead of the game. What I SHOULD do is hoof it up to the health food store and buy all the ingredients from the bulk bins. *sigh* It's just so far :-(
Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5
The kids LOVE to help me make the granola and maybe one day they'll actually TRY IT.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Wearing My Jeans at Least Twice Before Laundering
OK, now that I've got you all humming Neil Diamond songs from the seventies, let's talk about my pants.
The cool fall weather that I love so much is finally upon us and I have put my three ill-fitting but comfortable pair of dungarees back into the ol' wardrobe rotation. These were all purchased just last year, after I finally decided that 18 months post-partum was a little to long to be wearing maternity jeans. Being relatively new, they are all that dark-blue, looks-like-I've-been-wearing-them-to-work-in-a-coal-mine color. What I'm trying to say here, is that a little dirt is hardly noticeable on these jeans.
So, I've decided that, to save water, laundry detergent, dryer energy and denim wear-and-tear, I will be wearing my jeans until they can practically walk themselves to the hamper. Or twice. Whichever comes first. Hubby always wears his jeans at least twice and it's not like I notice it on him, and his jeans are the older, nearly-faded-white color, so who the hell will notice on me? And if someone does notice and has the balls to say something, God help 'em - cuz I'll go all Song Sung Blue on their ass.
In the fall/winter/spring, I usually wear jeans five days per week. Rather than washing after each wear, I will wear them twice. So in one week, instead of washing 5 pair of jeans, I'll be washing 2.5 pair. Now let's assume that it takes 10 pair of jeans to fill a load of laundry (they're bulky and heavy). I will be saving an entire load of laundry every four weeks. Jean season lasts November - April or 26 weeks, so that's a savings of 6.5 loads of laundry per year. That equates to 78 gallons of water and over 20 kWh saved.
Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5
The only difficult part is that I'm a slob and I'll need to try a little harder not to spill food, coffee or the kids' paint on my pants. I know I can do it though. I'm a Believer.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Separating Recyclables from Non-Recyclables
OK, you're thinking "WTF? Didn't this crazy bitch already post that she was recycling, like way back in JUNE?" Yes, I did. And don't call me a crazy bitch. I am not crazy. What I'm trying to say is that when I have some packaging (think CFL packages, rechargeable batteries, kids' toys, etc.) that is a co-mingling of cardboard, paper, metal and non-recyclable plastic, I will take the time to separate all the little recyclable bits from the non-recyclable bits and dispose of each of them properly, rather than just heave a sigh, curse the manufacturer, and toss it in the trash.
This is sometimes easier said than done. For example, young Ethan received a fair number of toys for his birthday last month and separating the recyclables from the nons took about 20 minutes. They use super-sticky Kryptonite tape to attach plastic doodads to the box and you need a machete to separate the plastics from the cardboard. Fortunately, this crazy bitch has a machete and is not afraid to use it. [That should scare off the Internet stalkers, eh?]
Another difficult one to quantify. Daily, not a huge savings, but on holidays, birthdays, etc. it will really add up quickly.
Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5
Not too bad, on a day-to-day basis, but attacking a pile of plasticardboard boxes in December is going to take its toll. Crazy bitch will have her hands full then.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Skipping A Shampoo Twice a Week
In light of this artice I just read about the massive droughts hitting our Australian friends, I have decided to do another water conservation post. It continues to amaze me that few American realize what a luxury it is to have clean, potable water flowing from dozens of taps in our homes. I'm sure we all take it for granted occassionally, but if we don't start slowing our personal consumption, we too could find ourselves in a state of mandatory restrictions (oh wait, we ALREADY ARE!).
Today I pledge to skip two hair washin's a week. Every week. Tuesdays and Thursdays will become my "grease is good" days and I'll forego the normal lather and rinse (never been much of a "repeater" -- just seems so "been there, done that").
It would appear from my post history (hehehe, yeah, that sounds funny) that I am just inching my way towards adding more "To Hell With Personal Hygiene Days" and maybe I am. My brother in law -- HAPPY BIRTHDAY BRIAN! -- indulges in multiple THWPHDs per week and no one thinks he's gross. Except when he takes them consecutively. Anyhow, I think I might be headed down that path, but first I'm going to see how little water I can consume while still rinsing off the stink.
Shampooing takes me approximately 90 seconds from the time I pick up the bottle till I get all the gunk rinsed out. That cuts my shower time down to four minutes! That also saves me approximately 4 gallons per day, twice per week, for a total of 8 gallons per week. In one year, that's a savings of 130 gallons. Just a drop in the bucket, but every drop counts.
Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5
I've said it many times before, but it bears repeating. Going green does not have to be about buying new green gadgets or expensive organic food. The best ways to go green are usually to just STOP. Stop eating so much beef. Stop buying so much crap. Stop traveling so much. Stop using so much water. Just stop. There, you've done something good for the environment just by stopping. And who knows? Maybe once you stop, you'll have a chance to look around and see something beautiful that you might have otherwise missed.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Swapping Out the Kids' Babywash
I try to minimize the amount of chemicals my children are exposed to, at least within my own home. I no longer use bleach, harsh cleaning supplies or air fresheners because they contain some pretty nasty polypetrowhatnots. However, week after week, I continue to rub them down with such beauties as sodium trideceth sulfate, acrylates copolymer, polyquaternium-7, sodium benzoate and styrene/acrylates copolymer. Nothing like that clean baby smell, eh?
Starting this week, we are switching from Johnson & Johnson brand babywash to Burt's Bees wash. The ingredients are derived from natural sources, they do not test their products on animals and their bottle is made from 80% post-consumer content. Plus I gotta love an eco-friendly company that make going green easy on my brain and my pocketbook.
We go through roughly six ounces of babywash every month, so a year's worth of J&J would be 72 ounces, or a little over a half gallon of stuff fish probably shouldn't be drinking.
Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5
Once again, I do have to post my beef with the fact that Kroger's doesn't put Burt's Bees babywash in the baby aisle with all the other washes. It has its own little ("little" being the operative word) display case hidden over by the pharmacy and the "crunchy granola" aisles. Is that really necessary? Wouldn't more people be likely to switch if the option were literally right in front of their noses?
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Getting My Oil Changed When, And Only When, Required
Do you change your oil every three months or 3,000 miles? If you do, you're even more anal than I am. And that's saying a LOT! It's also saying that you're probably changing your oil more than is necessary and wasting resources each time. While having your vehicle in tip-top shape is important to ensure the best possible gas mileage, there is such a thing as too much maintenance.
I am going in tomorrow to get my second oil changed for only the second time this year. Why only twice? (I know what you're thinking -- L A Z Y -- But you'd be wrong! Kind of.) I'm only on my second oil change because my vehicle's manufacturer does not recommend/require an oil change every 3,000 miles. Most cars don't these days.
I have decided that Honda knows more about what its engines can handle than I do and am going to abide by their recommendations for all my maintenance items. I will simply ignore that annoying sticker JiffyLube insists on attaching to my windshield and will instead listen to what Honda tells me. After all, they're not looking to squeeze another $39.95 out of me every quarter.
If I followed Jiffy Lube's instructions, I'd be on my fifth oil change. By following my owner's manual instead, I have saved more than 50% of the oil I would otherwise have consumed during that time. Of course, I do still go to Jiffy Lube, since I know they properly dispose of and recycle the oil. They're not entirely evil, afterall.
Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5
Can I start giving some of these negative ratings? Seriously, my car tells me when to get the oil changed, how much easier could it get?
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Giving Up Plastic Wrap
How many times have I posted about the overuse of plastic? About a million times? Oh, eight? Well, it should be more. Some plastics are great and very useful (think medical equipment, reusable tupperware or coffee mugs) but a lot of plastic is just plain unnecessary. Take for example, Saran wrap.
Saran wrap is a single use item - it is disposable but non-biodegradable plastic made from a non-renewable resource. It is the epitome of what I am trying to eliminate from my home.
When Saran wrap was originally invented in the 1950's, it was made from PVC, the most toxic of plastic compounds. In 1994, Saran introduced a safer alternative made from LDPE and dubbed it "Premium Saran". However, the LDPE wrap does not possess the same barrier qualities to oxygen that PVC does, which makes the new "Premium Saran" a lower quality plastic wrap, as it is not as useful in protecting from spoilage or flavor loss. So why bother? BTW, most caterers and professional food processors still use the PVC version of Saran.
I will be using neither version of Saran from here on out. I grew up on good ol' aluminum foil-wrapped leftovers and I shall return to it. Should I need a plastic covering for something, I will take one of the myriad of plastic bread bags I have saved up, slice it open and secure it with a rubber band. Although, I don't know why I would ever need to do that when I have such a lovely collection of reusable containers.
For each roll of Saran I don't buy, I am saving 50 feet of PVC plastic, as well as a cardboard box and cardboard tube. I didn't use a ton of it in the past -- maybe two or three rolls per year, but that means I can save 150 feet of the toxic film.
Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5
I don't think it will bother me much at all. In fact, I'm looking forward to not having the fight with the damn stuff anymore! Why the hell does it stick to you, the box, the counter and everything else, but never stays stuck to the bowl?
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Days 81 - 100
OK, after a long weekend and an extra day off to recuperate, I'm ready to give you the low down on days eighty-one through one-hundred. Here goes:
81. Packing Snacks for Preschool - We still have a few leftover granola bars in the cupboard, but for the most part the kids are taking their little bowls filled from bulk-sized packages of goldfish, Scooby Snacks and Teddy Grahams. And the occasional sliced UN-brown apple - thanks for the lemon juice tip, Mary Elizabeth!
82. Switching to CFLs - That reminds me, I have a light out.
83. Using the Crockpot Instead of the Oven - WOW I LOVE THIS ONE! I have a whole recipe book called "Fix it and Forget it" and boy do I! My only problem is that if it says "cook for 6 hours", I assumed 10 hours would be even better. Not true.
84. Learn World Geography - I can now correctly identify India, Egypt, Vietnam, Philippines, China or Indonesia on a map! I've also brushed up on my South American geography -- just in case I want to shop for coffee or cocaine.
85. Picking Up Dog Poo - The things we'll do for our pets, eh? Yup, still chucking the poo over the fence with my bio-bag protected digits. Joy.
86. Visiting the Farmer's Market - "Bawk bawk bawk". Yeah, I still have not gotten ballsy enough to head downtown alone. *sigh* I guess I'll have to be content with the local farm's production for now.
87. Reducing My Print Margins - Talk about "fix it and forget it". This works great! All my orders are now printed on one piece of paper!
88. Replace PVC Shower Curtain with Washable Curtain - Done. Even washed it once already. It didn't get out all the scary mildew on the bottom, but then again I don't use hot water or bleach in the laundry cycle, so really, what do you expect? At least now it's freshly laundered mildew.
89. Skipping the Manicure - I can't stop noticing everyone else's beautifully manicured nails now. I haven't tried all the great tips you guys have sent me yet. Mostly because the day after I posted this, I ripped off one of my nails damn near down to the quick. Murphy's law?
90. Eating Vegetarian Once A Week - When I first came up with this brilliant idea, I wondered how I would ever generate enough meal ideas. Then I realized that I already make a TON of meatless dishes -- mostly pasta dishes -- which hubby loves! And with pasta comes fresh homemade bread -- who needs meat when you can pig out on carbs?
91. Letting It Mellow - Still grosses me out a bit, but with a fourth potty person here now (three cheers for Daphne!) it doesn't take long to generate a "full load" that is flush-worthy.
92. Don't Run the Water Full Blast While Handwashing - Easy to do, hard to remember. Like all these changes, if I continue to work at it, it will soon be second nature to me.
93. Recycling Our Old Washing Machine - Old Bessie just sits in the garage waiting to be loaded in the van and taken to Gene's. Unfortunately, the minivan rear seat isn't currently foldable, since someone appears to have wedged a cheap plastic toy in the hooking mechanism. One more reason to forgo craptastic China toys.
94. Keeping the 'Do Short - I look like Carol Brady, but I'm very environmentally friendly.
95. Making Changes to What I Compost - I think this is going to continue to evolve until I figure out what the hell I'm doing. Feel free to give tips... I need all the help I can get!
96. Resurfacing Damaged DVDs - They didn't have the DVD mailers at Kroger and I haven't yet ventured into Office Max. Maybe next week. I have, however, found two more DVDs that need resurfacing.
97. Using Both Sides of the Paper - OK, a *little* confusion on this task. When I started to print stuff out I forgot which side I was supposed to be paying attention to. Easy fix, though. I simply put a big X through the "used" side with a Sharpie before I put it in the "ready to reuse" pile.
98. Taking the Kids to the Farm - Oodles and oodles of fun! I think Ethan would have been happy to be dropped in the middle of the pumpkin patch and left for the whole day! He loved the tractor ride, the pumpkins and, of course, the cotton candy. Daphne? She got so "natured up" that she got a sinus infection :-(
99. Turning the A/C AND the Furnace Off - The days are still warm and the nights are sleep-inducing cool, so it's really no inconvenience... yet. We'll see how the family is doing in another couple of weeks!
100. Progress Report - A lot of work to put together, but I think it was worth it. It reminded me how far I've come and has motivated me to keep on going. I know that not all the changes are working, but the majority of them are doing as well as expected and some have even surpassed expectations. All in all, I am going to call the first 100 days of greening a success. I look forward to the next one hundred with anticipation! :-)
Thanks so much to all of you who keep reading and cheering me on (or jeering me on, when I need it!) Your comments and suggestions are so helpful and I love hearing from all of you. Hope you all are doing well with your own quests, whatever they may be.
Tomorrow I'll be back to normal. Well, by that I mean I'll be posting another change.
Monday, October 22, 2007
I'm Freakin Exhausted, Folks
Hey! I know this is supposed to be the last installment of my Progress Report, but I am pooped. We got back from New York late last night, after ten hours in the car with the kids and then Daphne gave us an extra does of love by getting up at 4:30 am today. I'm too tired to even read a blog, much less write one. Instead, I give you the Op-Ed piece that Stephen Colbert wrote for Maureen Dowd in the NY Times last week (the intro is by Ms. Dowd):
I was in my office, writing a column on the injustice of relative marginal tax rates for hedge fund managers, when I saw Stephen Colbert on TV. He was sneering that Times columns make good “kindling.”
He was ranting that after you throw away the paper, “it takes over a hundred years for the lies to biodegrade.” He was observing, approvingly, that “Dick Cheney’s fondest pipe dream is driving a bulldozer into The New York Times while drinking crude oil out of Keith Olbermann’s skull.”
I called Colbert with a dare: if he thought it was so easy to be a Times Op-Ed pundit, he should try it. He came right over. In a moment of weakness, I had staged a coup d’moi. I just hope he leaves at some point. He’s typing and drinking and threatening to “shave Paul Krugman with a broken bottle.”
I Am an Op-Ed Columnist (And So Can You!)
By STEPHEN COLBERT
Surprised to see my byline here, aren’t you? I would be too, if I read The New York Times. But I don’t. So I’ll just have to take your word that this was published. Frankly, I prefer emoticons to the written word, and if you disagree :(
I’d like to thank Maureen Dowd for permitting/begging me to write her column today. As I type this, she’s watching from an overstuffed divan, petting her prize Abyssinian and sipping a Dirty Cosmotinijito. Which reminds me: Before I get started, I have to take care of one other bit of business:
Bad things are happening in countries you shouldn’t have to think about. It’s all George Bush’s fault, the vice president is Satan, and God is gay.
There. Now I’ve written Frank Rich’s column too.
So why I am writing Miss Dowd’s column today? Simple. Because I believe the 2008 election, unlike all previous elections, is important. And a lot of Americans feel confused about the current crop of presidential candidates.
For instance, Hillary Clinton. I can’t remember if I’m supposed to be scared of her so Democrats will think they should nominate her when she’s actually easy to beat, or if I’m supposed to be scared of her because she’s legitimately scary.
Or Rudy Giuliani. I can’t remember if I’m supposed to support him because he’s the one who can beat Hillary if she gets nominated, or if I’m supposed to support him because he’s legitimately scary.
And Fred Thompson. In my opinion “Law & Order” never sufficiently explained why the Manhattan D.A. had an accent like an Appalachian catfish wrestler.
Well, suddenly an option is looming on the horizon. And I don’t mean Al Gore (though he’s a world-class loomer). First of all, I don’t think Nobel Prizes should go to people I was seated next to at the Emmys. Second, winning the Nobel Prize does not automatically qualify you to be commander in chief. I think George Bush has proved definitively that to be president, you don’t need to care about science, literature or peace.
While my hat is not presently in the ring, I should also point out that it is not on my head. So where’s that hat? (Hint: John McCain was seen passing one at a gas station to fuel up the Straight Talk Express.)
Others point to my new bestseller, “I Am America (And So Can You!)” noting that many candidates test the waters with a book first. Just look at Barack Obama, John Edwards or O. J. Simpson.
Look at the moral guidance I offer. On faith: “After Jesus was born, the Old Testament basically became a way for Bible publishers to keep their word count up.” On gender: “The sooner we accept the basic differences between men and women, the sooner we can stop arguing about it and start having sex.” On race: “While skin and race are often synonymous, skin cleansing is good, race cleansing is bad.” On the elderly: “They look like lizards.”
Our nation is at a Fork in the Road. Some say we should go Left; some say go Right. I say, “Doesn’t this thing have a reverse gear?” Let’s back this country up to a time before there were forks in the road — or even roads. Or forks, for that matter. I want to return to a simpler America where we ate our meat off the end of a sharpened stick.
Let me regurgitate: I know why you want me to run, and I hear your clamor. I share Americans’ nostalgia for an era when you not only could tell a man by the cut of his jib, but the jib industry hadn’t yet fled to Guangdong. And I don’t intend to tease you for weeks the way Newt Gingrich did, saying that if his supporters raised $30 million, he would run for president. I would run for 15 million. Cash.
Nevertheless, I am not ready to announce yet — even though it’s clear that the voters are desperate for a white, male, middle-aged, Jesus-trumpeting alternative. What do I offer? Hope for the common man. Because I am not the Anointed or the Inevitable. I am just an Average Joe like you — if you have a TV show.
Good night, all. See you tomorrow....
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Days 61 - 80
Thanks to everyone for leaving me comments on how you're all doing! I love to hear how you all are making changes too! Sometimes you get to thinking you're fighting an uphill battle and that everyone else out there is drinking from styrofoam cups and then tossing them out the car window. The comments remind me that there are lots of everyday people going about their normal lives who are trying, like I am, to be a little nicer to the Earth. Thank you.
61. Buying in Bulk - I have my Costco ID card in my wallet -- it's really nice to get "carded" when I go somewhere again! Makes me feel young. I am amazed at the size of some of the items you can buy there. Once we're finished eating all the pickles, I am going to attach jar to the side of the house to be used as a solarium.
62. Throwing an Eco-Friendly Labor Day Party - We would have done this, if we had friends, but we don't, so we didn't.
63. Finding My Inspiration - Don't have to look to far for this, since one is usually on my hip and the other is riding circles around me on his tricycle.
64. Using Laundry Balls in Lieu of Fabric Softener - I gave this one a try, but honestly, the clothes were just so scratchy I couldn't stand it! When Ethan was asked about it, he told me his underwear was "pointy". Yikes. Who wants pointy underwear? I continue to use the 'balls, though, since I do think they cut down on drying time.
65. Start a Compost Pile - To paraphrase Groucho Marx, "Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a compost bin". This is one change that I like and don't like, all at the same time. I went to turn the compost this week and there were HUGE maggots in it! GROSS OUT! I checked online, though, and from what I read, I think they are the larvae of "compost-dwelling soldier flies". 100% beneficial to the composting process and do not bite or grow into biters. But still, eeeewwwwwwww. I will continue to compost, but am already fearing the day next spring when I will be removing my black gold, for fear that it will be filled with critters.
66. Buying Local Seafood - This is one of my favorite changes. I LOVE the fresh fish each week and hubby does too! It's not as healthy as it should be, since my favorite recipe involves loads of butter and parmesan cheese, but ooohhhh, it's so good!
67. Giving Up Plug-In Air Fresheners - Sometimes I really miss these suckers. Mostly in the bathrooms. My candles are an ok substitute, but since they don't have the chemicals that dull your senses, they obviously don't suppress the underlying odors. *shrug* I guess that's why we don't have company over often. Well, that and the whole "no friends" thing.
68. Tell Manufacturers What You Want - I am now on three different "survey" lists for companies who want my opinions. Can you believe that? They are literally asking for it! And you know I'm not shy about giving it!
69. Forgiving Myself for Transgressions - Yeah, I definitely have a handle on this one. Maybe too good a handle as some weeks I find myself slipping up on simple things that I shouldn't be slipping up on anymore.
70. Stop Pre-Rinsing Before Loading the Dishwasher - I can deal with overflowing toilets and poop-filled gDiapers, I can ignore the fruit flies under my kitchen sink, I can even handle maggots in my compost bin. But for whatever reason, wiping food remnants off plates makes me dry-heave. -- every single time. I tried, I really did, but after two weeks of nearly delivering my own partially-digested dinner back to the sink I gave up. I use as little water as I possibly can to get the gunk off, but I definitely screamed "uncle" on this one.
71. Turning Off the Laptop During the Day - I cheat. A lot. I would say the laptop is off maybe just 50% of the time it should be. In my defense (if I'm allowed one) I only turn it on when the kids have already made their intent to ignore me clear. Only if they have decided to play with one another, are engrossed in animal rescues with Diego or are chasing the dog with wind up toys do I flick it on. It's a tough habit to break.
72. Donating To and Buying From the Habitat ReStore - Still afraid of downtown. Still have a pile of used building materials in my garage waiting to go to the ReStore. I will get there, eventually. Just give me some time to build up my courage.
73. Heating Water In the Microwave Instead of Running the Tap - Love this change! Daphne gets her cocoa at the perfect temperature every single time and I don't waste a single drop of water.
74. Taking on the 90% Challenge -It's not quite been a month yet, so I don't have the invoices from the power company and such to measure my success. I'll have to give you an update on this one later.
75. Closing the Drain Before Starting the Bathwater - Another super-easy change that doesn't even get noticed here, but still saves a goodly amount of water.
76. Repurposing All Our Stale Water - Oreo is the most eco-conscious doggy around! She is such a good girl, drinking all that stale water! Now if I could just get her to crap in the designated "poop zone", we'd be all set.
77. Re-evaluating the Products I Put on My Face - THANK YOU CAROLINE! My friend Caroline gave me a huge tip on ecologically friendly beauty products by recommending the Burt's Bees product line. I know sport their chapstick, two lip shades, shampoo and kids' baby wash. I love them all! In addition to changing my 'stick, I picked up an all-natural mascara that -- surprise, surprise -- doesn't make my eyes water like every other mascara I've ever owned. I've also invested in Bioelements, a naturally-derived foundation / blush kit (yeah, it's a kit -- lots of wands, brushes and containers... makes me feel like a mad scientist with all that stuff). I don't know if it has the same coverage and shine control, but it's ok. I don't have blush or eyeshadow yet, but I'll find them!
78. Using a Coffee Carafe to Keep My Java Hot - Lovin' this change too. I no longer have to choke down that last bit of burnt-flavored coffee at 10 am. My coffee truly is good to the last drop now.
79. Live Simply so Others Can Simply Live (Crunchy Chicken Solidarity) - I am happy to report that Mr. Crunchy Chicken is now home from the hospital and is doing much better. Mrs. Crunchy Chicken is back to posting and you can check her out here.
80. Update My Voter Registration - I'm ready to vote next month! Well, I will be once I finish educating myself about the candidates. I have been trying to keep up with the local politics here but I really need to just take the time, sit down and read through their stances on all the issues that are important to me. Can you guess what they are?
As I mentioned at the beginning of the week, I'll be taking some time off now to go see my family in New York. I'll be offline until Monday, hope you all have a great one!
Days 41 - 60
It's funny. When I started on this new progress report, I thought about all the failures I have had along the way and was almost certain my misses would outnumber my hits. However, I am surprisingly pleased to see that, upon further inspection, most of my changes are actually sticking. Furthermore, the majority of them don't even feel wierd to me anymore. This must be what it feels like to "get crunchy". ;-)
41. No More ATM or Gas Reciepts - I keep saying "no" to every ATM or gas pump that asks. It's like dating again, but with kiosks. The only thing to watch out for is the "fast cash" option on the ATM. It never gives you a prompt for the reciept -- it just automatically spits one out. Don't fall for the fast cash!
42. Teach My Kids About The Environment - This is going so well! I think it's because the kids are like sponges and whatever you do, they want to do too. Ethan loves to be on "light patrol", and they both love to go on nature walks and watch the recycle truck in action. Ethan has gone so far as to tell me that a lot of his toys are plastic and that plastic is bad. ;-) Cute. We'll see how he feels come Christmas time, though!
43. Participate in Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup - This has been a very dry summer/fall in Central Virginia. Except, of course, for the weekend of September 15th when it rained like a bastard! We did have reservations to stay at our favorite state park, situated on the Chesapeake Bay, but we just couldn't bear the thought of trying to camp with the kids in the rain. :-( Instead, we went on a nature walk that Sunday and Mommy picked up trash near the shoreline of our reservoir.
44. Don't Buy Anything New for a Year (or Month) - This is The Compact that I speak of so often and it's hard as hell. I have GREAT respect for the compactors out there who are making this work. I was able to do it for one month, but fell off the wagon hard and have not gotten back on yet. I'm thinking I'll try in January as a New Year's Resolution. After all, our American Super-Consumeristic Attitude is one of the biggest contributors to global pollution.
45. Change My Fabric Softener - I thought I would miss that Downy Fresh Smell more than I do. Now my clothes just smell like clothes. I occasionally will pull out a garment I haven't worn in months and the perfumey aroma almost bowls me over. Strange how quickly we adjust.
46. Dropping Cotton Balls From My Daily Routine - Did I ever tell you what I ended up using as a substitute? Cut up cotton diapers! It's true. I had a bunch leftover from the kids (they're super-absorbent and we used them as spit-up cloths) and I cut one diaper up into about 20 cotton squares. I serged the edges and voila! Face swabs. I can use one for a couple days running and then they just get tossed in the dirty laundry pile. Love em!
47. Stop Driving Like a Maniac - I behave myself behind the wheel about 85% of the time now. You may scoff, but that is actually a HUGE improvement! I think it has lowered my blood pressure as well.
48. Replace My Dead Washer with an Energy Efficient Front Loader - Yeah. Probably shouldn't tell you that the kids still like to sit in front of the damn thing and watch the clothes go around. Also shouldn't tell you I do too.
49. Reducing the Amount of Beef We Eat - We've only eaten beef once since this post. It was a moment of weakness... I had forgotten to thaw out dinner and Five Guys Burgers is too close and too good to pass up. Besides, they let you eat all the peanuts you want and have the best fries on the planet. I'd say our trip was well worth the wait and we'll be going back in another couple of months.
50. Being Good Campers - We have had so much fun camping this summer! I thought camping with the kids would be a lot of work, but they actually bring a lot to the table. They get you to look at and notice things that you take for granted - "Mommy look at this rock! It is rrreeeeaaaaalllllly sparkley! I think it the most sparkliest rock EVER.".
51. Combine Errands to Save Gas - Anytime I have errands to run that take me off the main road between home and preschool, I map it out to ensure I am taking the shortest route. Works like a charm and keeps me extra-super organized. *cough*GEEK*cough*
52. Switch From Disposable Diapers to gDiapers - NONE OF THIS MATTERS BECAUSE MY GIRL "BOOPIES" IN THE POTTY NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOO HOO!!!!!!! But in case you were wondering, I clogged the toilet three times with poopy gDiapers. Once in front of the babysitter who almost puked when it happened.
53. Turn Off the Car When Idling - This one irks the kids a little bit (it makes their DVD player skip a beat when I turn the car back on) but other than that, it's a very simple change.
54. Convince Others to Conserve - Perhaps one of the more challenging items on my list. I don't ever want to come off as "preachy" or "pushy" and I don't want to make people feel uncomfortable. My biggest effort on this front is actually this here blog, so you tell me -- am I convincing?
55. Skipping One Shower Each Week - To Hell With Personal Hygeine Day is such a huge success, I'm thinking about making it a weeklong celebration! Just kidding. That's one change that even hubby would notice! I hope.
56. Brushing My Teeth With Less Water Waste - Use a Cup! It saves so much water! But none of those disposable dixie cups... that's a bit self-defeating. My new anal tooth brushing technique (hmmm, poor phrasing on that one) is working well and I've adjusted easily to the change.
57. Convince A Pharmacy to Reuse My Prescription Bottles - Convinced? Yes. Taken Them Up on the Offer? No. I keep forgetting that the pharmacy at Kroger isn't open when I go grocery shopping early Sunday mornings and then I end up calling the scrip in to Walgreens. I'll try my best to remember next time I need a refill!
58. Switching to Recycled Toilet Paper - Not much to say, really. The paper is definitely not as soft as Mr. Whipple's, but hey, it's a pretty small sacrifice to make and my ass is happy to do its part for the environment.
59. Packing Nuts Rant - I have decided to do what one of my fellow eco-bloggers, Beth, does and send unwanted packaging back to the source with a note telling them to ease up. BTW, if you haven't checked out her site in my links, be sure to drop by. She does excellent, level-headed posts about plastic!
60. Packing Nuts Rant, Part Deux - I am doing my best to avoid being a packing nut. I save all my boxes and reuse them for my garment shipments. Not a single customer has complained about recieving their beautiful renaissance garb in an old Amazon box. I love our customers! :-)
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Days 21 - 40
As I said yesterday, now that I've reached 100 days, I'm taking some time to tell you the honest truth about how this little experiment is going. Some things are great, others not so much. I'd love to hear from all of you, though. Please feel free to leave comments if you've made any of these changes (or others) and let me know how it went for you. It's nice to hear how other folks are dealing with the same issues!
Here are today's good, bad and ugly:
21. Changing My Energy Supplier to A Wind Farm - OK, I did this online way back in early July. I thought I was all set, but on September 15th, I got an email from PowerChoice saying that the name I submitted to Dominion didn't exactly match the name on my account and the whole thing was null and void. Apparently, knowing my service address, account number, PIN, social security number, driver license ID, secret word and mother's maiden name just wasn't enough. Grrrrr. I went through the whole sign up process again and am hoping this time it "took". Guess I'll find out sometime next month.
22. Finding A Second Use for Lint - My lint log worked! I took up to Pennsylvania on a family camping trip and it did a hell of a job acting like wood. It takes a surprising long time to fill a paper towel tube with lint -- I'm still only on my second one. This will probably be my last log though. After I finish this I'm going to just start throwing the lint in the compost pile -- it needs more "brown matter".
23. Stop Using Paper Towels - My dishtowels are definitely getting a workout and sometimes I wish I had just one more paper towel -- but I always manage to find a decent substitute without too much stress.
24. Give Up Bottled Water - You know, we went to Blockbuster two weeks ago and I used a coupon I had for 2 free rentals and 2 free sodas. I didn't think twice about the sodas until they were home and in my fridge and then it dawned on me -- there is really no difference between a water bottle and a soda bottle. So in addition to swearing off water bottles, I've also sworn off any and all plastic, single-serving beverage bottles. Thank goodness my IBC diet root beer and Hornsby's Hard Cider are packaged in glass!
25. Write Letters to Politicians - OK, writing a letter every single Sunday is a bit ambitious for someone who cleans her house semi-annually. Since this post I have written exactly six letters to various politicians. But, that's six more than I would have sent otherwise and now, any time I get a bug up my ass about something, I write someone and let them know. It's seems to be more like therapy than activism.
26. Make Smart Choices About Packaging - Oh man, when I first started this, it was so hard to make these kinds of choices. My mind would start spinning the minute I walked through the automatic supermarket doors. But now, it's become second nature. The order of No Packaging, Reusable Packaging, Glass, Aluminum, Cardboard, Paper, Biodegradable, Plastic #1 or #2, Other Plastic is no harder than remembering the order of the birth of my kids.
27. Turn Down the Water Heater - I cannot BELIEVE I got away with this one. I thought for sure I would be caught by Mr. Shower-Till-I-Look-Like-A-Florida-Tourist. But, the jig will soon be up, as cold times are fast approaching and I'll be forced to turn the water heater back up to keep our house warm :-(
28. Plant A Tree - Oh crap, guess what I forgot to do. Mmm hmm. Yeah. I'll be hitting the nursery this week -- I promise! Any suggestions? And no, I can't plant pot -- my neighbor is a cop!
29. Skip the Plastic Toys in the Happy Meals - You know, it's the tasks that seem so easy that are really, really hard. Ethan only fell for the "they ran out of toys" line twice before he started scoping out other kids' happy meals to see if they got toys. I tried to ration with him. I tried to bribe him. I did everything short of boycotting McDonald's, but in the end, he beat me down. And of course, whatever the boy gets, the girl must get too.
30. Progress Report - This really motivated me to keep on making changes. I'm hoping the current progress report will have a similar effect. Again, feel free to tell me how you're doing!
31. Stop Using Weed Killers - Haven't used them at all since the post and I don't notice any new clover patches sprouting up. Of course, I also wouldn't really care if I did. If it's green, I'm calling it "lawn".
32. Switch from Alkaline to Rechargeable Batteries - This was a GREAT change! I keep four batteries in the charger at all times and I NEVER run out of batteries. Technology is so cool! Why didn't I do this long ago?
33. Giving in on Reusable Coffee Filters - Hehehehe, he may have won this battle, but I still claim victory on the war. I let him have his unbleached single-use coffee filters but I bought a $100 compost bin to put them in. HA!
34. Changing My Shower Routine - Not only does this cut down on chemicals and water waste, it gives me at least an extra three minutes of coffee-drinking / internet-surfing time each morning. To quote Martha Stewart: "It's a good thing."
35. Cleaning Out the Pantry to Avoid Waste - The pantry doors aren't closing all the way. Must be time to purge again.
36. Switching to Biodegradable Corn-Based Straws - These things are awesome. I love ALL my corny products and I don't understand why they aren't found in regular grocery stores. Shit like this should really be mainstream -- no one in the family even noticed the change.
37. Reusing Ziplock Baggies - Can you believe I am still on the same box of baggies that I bought in JUNE?!?!? These suckers (the big freezer ones) are damn near indestructible! I labeled them for different uses (ie: onions, bread, veggies, fruit, etc.) so I didn't get any cross-flavor contamination and everything is working just peachy.
38. Keeping My Tires Properly Inflated - I don't do this every time I gas up anymore. I thought I would see huge fluctuations in my tire pressure, but I don't. In fact, all four are pretty much spot-on whenever I check them. I'd say I check about every 4 weeks or so now.
39. Reuse, Reuse, Reuse - OK, my house is quickly starting to look like the home of an eccentric 80-year old shut-in who hasn't thrown anything away since bobby socks and saddle shoes were in style. I can't use all the bread wrappers, containers and toilet paper tubes fast enough. I guess that's my big clue that it's time to either find them a new home or start reducing, reducing, reducing.
40. Borrow from the Library Instead of Buying at the Store - Ethan calls it "The Borrow Store", which is also what he calls Blockbuster. We went quite a bit this summer, but then they caught a convicted child molester hanging out there and it freaked me out. I haven't been back since. Guess I'm not a very brave cowgirl.
OK, I shared with you, now tell me how you're doing....
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Evaluating My Changes To See What Is or Is Not Working
Wow! One Hundred Days of Going Green! That's so awesome! Big pat on the back for all of us who have spent the last few months trying to be good Planeteers. :-)
Ok. Celebration is over, back to your desks, everyone. We've still got a long way to go.
This has been such an interesting adventure thus far but honestly, I'm surprised that I've lasted this long. Usually I get all excited about one cause or another and within a month or two I've forgotten all about it. However, I am learning so much about the environment and am really enjoying all the research that goes into the blog. Hubby thinks this is my midlife crisis, but really, it's an addiction. I don't smoke anymore and I no longer hold my liquor well enough to be a respectable alcoholic, so other than trying to raise my children, run a business and keep a home, what else is there to do?
I'm going to mark this centennial occassion by taking a temporary break from instituting new changes and will instead look back at the changes I've made and tell you how things really went. You see, I'm an eternal optimist and my posts reflect what would happen in my perfect little fantasy-ecobubble. Reality is always MUCH different. I slip up every freakin' day on one thing or another. But the good news is that this undertaking has so opened my eyes so to the fagility of the planet, that I could never, in clear conscience, stop trying.
This review is going to take more than one day, for sure, so bear with me. To make things easy (on me), I'm going to go in chronological order, listing twenty changes per day. And to raise the level of the laziness, I'll be taking a long weekend in the middle of it, to celebrate Autumn with my family. But, If you're new to the blog or haven't been playing along at home, this would be a great time to start, since I'll give you the real scoop on what is working and what just sucks.
So, without further ado, let's see how the first twenty changes have gone:
1. No More Plastic Grocery Bags - I love being the nutjob who pisses off the bagboy at Kroger. Mwah ha ha! (that's my evil laugh, but the keyboard doesn't do it justice). Actually, I'm surprised at how many good comments I get from cashiers. From Babies R Us to Target, a lot of people tell me that they think it's great. And after 100 days, I almost never forget to bring them with me!
2. No More Paper Invoices (Online Banking) - What? Paper invoices? Did I live in a cave then too? This is working out very well.
3. Picking Up Trash In Public Places - Hmmmm, pride is a funny thing, isn't it? I'm still way too embarrassed to do this during the middle of playgroup or anything, so I only do it when the park is empty. Also, it annoys the hubby..... so I do it more when he's with me ;-)
4. Purchasing Used Clothing - Not a perfect solution. For instance, I just can't bring myself to buy used underthingys, socks or shoes. However, when shopping for any other clothing item, I do check out Goodwill and the consignment shops FIRST then hit the regular stores for what I cannot find second-hand.
5. Canceling My Newspaper Subscription - huh. Forgot about that one. Yeah, we no longer get the Friday & Saturday paper and I don't miss it one bit.
6. Turning Off The Lights When Not In Use - Some of these changes work a little too well. I have turned poor Ethan into a one-man light brigade, so to speak. He runs around the house demanding the I shut off any unnecessary lights to avoid "wastin' lee-lectrickities".
7. Learning What Can and Cannot Be Recycled - OMG, if you only do ONE THING on this list -- make it this one! Even if you think you know what your municipality can recycle, please double-check -- I was amazed by what I learned!
8. Programming Our Thermostat - Did it, bought the t-shirt, and in a few weeks I'll need to re-program it for winter. It was a simple task and it cut down on marital disputes. Well, HVAC-related ones, anyhow.
9. Buying Locally Grown Produce - YUMMY!!! This has inspired me to the point where next summer I will probably join a local CSA and also grow some of my own tomatoes, peas and cucumbers right in the side yard.
10. Bringing My Own Mug to Starbucks - Ah, from bagboys to barristas, I'm annoying people all over Richmond! I forgot my mug a lot when I first started, but now I have my "car mug" that stays in the van at all times so I'm ready for a pumpkin spice latte whenever and wherever the mood strikes me!
11. Turning Off the Sprinklers - You know what, I bet no one even noticed. Our county has recently set mandatory water restrictions and a lot of people are bitchin' that their lawns will dry up, but hey, we haven't watered in months and ours is still alive. I'm beginning to suspect the whole irrigation system idea is just a farce created by the Sprinkler Industry of America. I bet they have an entire PR department dedicated to spreading pro-watering propaganda.
12. Putting An End to Junk Mail - pffff. What a freakin' joke. I spend at least a half hour each week on the phone trying to get off of people's list and I haven't seen a BIT of difference. If anything, it seems like I'm getting MORE mail than before. I'm considering giving up on this one, or at least letting http://www.41pounds.org/ give it a crack.
13. Taking A Break - OK, what made me think THIS was a post? What the hell does that have to do with saving the environment? Although, I made TODAY a post and I'm not really changing anything now either. But then again, it is my blog...
14. No Hot Water For Laundry Washes and No Bleach - Don't miss it, don't care. Although hubby did ask about all the pink socks the other day. Doesn't bother me... I like pink.
15. Using All-Natural Cleaning Supplies - Hey! It's only been four months, but I finally used my green cleaning supplies! No, no, I didn't actually mop the floors, but I did wash a couple mirrors and scrub the tubs. That counts, right? It's nice to not feel like you're going to asphyxiate and be found dead on the bathroom floor with a toilet brush in one hand and a can of Ajax in the other. There are so many better ways to go....
16. Switching To Cloth Napkins - Everyone in the family has adjusted and it's just the way we live now. No big whoop.
17. Using Freecycle to Get Rid of Unwanted Items - Freecycle ROCKS! I got someone to take all my toxic cleaning supplies and air fresheners, in addition to a huge stack of magazines and a bunch of kids' clothes. It's like when we lived out in Bumf*$#, NY and we'd put crap on the side of the road with a big cardboard sign that read "FREE STUFF". By next morning, it was always gone!
18. Educating Myself About Plastics - Wow, I learnted a Lot of Smert stuff. Seriously, the more I read, the more I realize that I don't understand chemistry. I have, however, learned enough to know that I can only recycle #1 & #2 where I live, that I should NEVER EVER put plastics in the microwave and that PVC is the WORST kind of plastic ever invented and should be avoided whenever humanly possible. I've also learned that plastic is EVERYWHERE. You can't get away from it. Although many plastic items are truly useful, we should all try to minimize our consumption (not literally. Well, yes literally, of course, but I meant "consuming" -- as in "purchasing") of plastic products.
19. Giving "Green" Gifts - This is fun because it really makes you think. It can require more effort to come up with an idea and a cute presentation, but the effort is all worth it! It's nice to give a gift and know that it won't soon end up sitting in a landfill for 1,000 years. Hopefully the recipients share my view.
20. Talk to Your Friends & Neighbors About Recycling - If you recall, it was my extremely gregarious friend, Leah, who spoke to her friends and neighbors, not I. I speak to exactly one neighbor. That is our 14 year-old babysitter who needs to know where to put her empty soda can. I also have a whopping three physical (as opposed to virtual) friends who know about my greening. I don't know why, but saying "So, recycled anything exciting this week?" just doesn't seem like a natural conversation starter to me. Although it's probably slightly better than "Hi. My name's Erin and I'm an eco-holic".
Monday, October 15, 2007
Turning the A/C AND the Furnace Off
It's that wonderful time of year when the brutal heat of summer gently gives way to the cool, crisp air of autumn. Warm, sunny days yield to the chill of the night and the temperatures undulate between daytime highs in the upper 70's to nighttime lows in the 40's. This fluctuation that causes multiple wardrobe changes during a 24 hour period also leads to the cycling of air conditioning and heating in most of our self-contained, climate-controlled eco-systems we call "home".
This home, however, will be opting out of the on again/off again HVAC relationship game this fall. We will, instead, embrace the cyclical changes by opening our windows during the day and throwing on an extra blanket at night. I'm hoping that this breath of fresh air will also sweep out the funky smell in the garbage disposal, since I can't just dump bleach down it like I used to. ;-)
Our A/C has definitely worked overtime these past few months, with a long, hot and humid Virginia summer and giving it a break will definitely have a huge impact on our electric bill. Also, turning the furnace off will allow me to keep our water heater set at a lower temperature (the water tank somehow acts as our heat source) for just a little longer. During this wonderful period of flux -- 3 -4 weeks, maybe? -- I'm hoping to save roughly 200 kWh over what we used during the same time frame last year.
Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5
I'm from Upstate New York, and these crisp Autumn days are far and away my favorite time of year. To me, the cool weather makes me feel at home. I relish the newfound chill and love the fact that I can finally pull out my comfortable jeans and long sleeve t-shirts. So turning off the HVAC is literally 'no sweat'.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Take the Kids to the Farm
Do I get to count the wonderful autumn activity of tromping through a local pumpkin patch as an eco-adventure? Hell yes! I live in suburbia, man... anything that isn't paved, landscaped or mowed is considered eco-adventure to my kids!
So today will be short and sweet: Head outside and enjoy the beatifully crisp fall weather. Whether it's carving out a scary jack-o-lantern, taking a tractor-pulled hayride, picking a bushel of crunchy apples, or tasting wines at your local vineyard -- just get out there and sample whatever the local land has to offer.
Enjoy the Day! :-)
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Using Both Sides of the Paper
Paper is so cheap, isn't it? We treat it like it's garbage, rip it into pieces, crumple it up, throw it away. We forget that at one time it was a tall, strong, living tree sitting happily in a forest somewhere -- providing shelter for birds and squirrels and converting carbon dioxide into oxygen. We need to start treating paper with the respect it deserves. If a tree died so that I could jot down "eggs, milk and a gallon of milk" on something other than a slate tablet, I'm going to use every last inch (or side) of it.
Of course, if I can't be totally anal about it, it won't happen. So I set put one of my cheap plastic paper organizers downstairs near my laptop and printer. Now, whenever I'm done with one side of the sheet, it goes in the "half-spent" paper pile. This pile will now be flipped upside down and run back through the printer for garb orders, mapquest directions, grocery lists, etc. (Yes I DO print out my grocery lists -- it's a blank template with headings for each product type in Kroger's store, so that my list is organized by aisle. STILL think I'm not Obsessive-Compulsive?!?).
A very straight-forward 50% reduction in the amount of copy paper I use. That would be roughly two reams per year, or 1000 sheets. I can also add in any standard-sized flyers that get stuffed in my "community mailbox". Hell, they might as well be used for something, right?
Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5
The key, for me, is to have a place to store it. If it just sat on my desk in an unwieldy pile, it would drive me insane and I'd never stick with it. However, having the little tray (which I already owned) makes the difference between failure and success. Well, that and figuring out which way is "up" in my printer.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Resurfacing Damaged DVDs Instead of Replacing Them
News flash: I'm a horrible mom who forces her children to watch Disney and Pixar films until their little eyes are bloodshot and bleary, and daylight makes them recoil in horror. OK, maybe I'm not THAT bad, but I definitely let me kids view their fair share of toddler-appropriate cartoons. In fact, the little ones boast an emarassingly large collection of DVDs.
The kids are allowed to pick out their own movies for "rest time" each day and this means the DVDs are generally mishandled and abused. From being scraped across the floor to having cinnamon-toast-dust ground into their data grooves, you name it, they've endured it. The result? A bunch of DVDs that skip like Shirley Temple on the Good Ship Lollipop.
The old me would have simply tossed the scratched disks into the trash and bought shiny, plastic-enshrined replacements. The new eco-me can't do that. Not only because I would be creating waste, but I'd also be violating my compact. Again.
I have tried "polishing" the DVDs with everything from mineral oil to peanut butter, but these disks are way beyond that point. They need professional help.
Clickety-click-click on the web -- and I find Skippy Disc who promises to make my old, worn out DVDs play like new again -- for much less than it would cost to buy new ($3.95 per DVD). Why would I ever throw another disc away!?
I'm gathering all the kids' skiptastic DVDs and will be mailing them off this week to Skippy Disc in Arizona (I did try to find someone local, but was unsuccessful in my search). I'll let you know how it works out.
I will be saving roughly 5 DVDs on this mailing, and can assume I'll be resurfacing about five per year. Not a huge quantity for me personally, but imagine all the other moms with Disney flicks who toss and replace each year. What if we ALL resurfaced our damaged movies and music?
Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5
Ugh, I have to find one of those cardboard DVD mailer thingys. Hopefully they'll have some right at Krogers and I can just get them when I go grocery shopping Sunday morning. Otherwise, I'll have to stop by Office Max one day next week.
Making Changes To What I Compost
Do you remember that happy day last month when my Garden Gourmet Compost Unit arrived? I have been happily keeping a bucket o' scraps under my kitchen sink and filling it with coffee grounds, biodegradable straws, apple cores, and any other organic matter that we generate. The problem is, I haven't been as diligent as I should be and I've been sending a lot of stuff down the garbage disposal, assuming that it was a relatively benign thing to do.
But I stumbled across some interesting research that showed that using my garbage disposal is only marginally better than tossing food scraps in the trash. Egads! Here I thought I was so eco-conscious by putting organic matter down the drain and it turns out, eh, it's not really a big improvement.
The reason for this is that garbage disposals use high volumes of water, at the sink and at the sewage treatment plant. Sewage with a high organic content also has a higher Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD), a measurement that gauges how many chemicals are needed to clean the sewage before it is expelled from the plant into free-running bodies of water.
So I have learned that being lazy about my food scraps gobbles up copious amounts of precious water resources AND adds more chemicals to our water system in the name of "clean" water. I simply cannot have that on my conscience. From here on out I will become a scrap Nazi. Here's the order for food disposal: People, Dog, Compost, Over the Fence (what the hell, if I can do it with 10 pounds of dog crap each week, I'm sure an occasional chicken bone won't be noticed), Disposal. That's right -- disposal is now the absolute last resort for food scraps and I have decided to never again toss food scraps into the landfill. Dammit.
I would guess that I send about 1.5 cups worth of organic waste down the drain per day. Over the course of a year, that adds up to 547 cups of food waste that has to be treated with chemicals and diluted with more water.
Geez, I wonder if that would feed a starving family somewhere. I bet it would. Good grief, are we a wasteful society or what? Maybe I should concentrate more on reducing that waste. Well, one change a day... maybe that can be tomorrow's challenge.
Difficulty Level: 4 out of 5
Yes, folks, I truly am a Lazy American. The added burden of properly picking up and disposing of bloated goldfish crackers and unwanted french fries earns itself a 4 on my difficulty scale. And yet, I pay money to belong to a gym where I can go specifically to NOT be lazy. Sometimes, even I don't understand me.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Keeping the 'Do Short
When I was young I had long, silky blonde hair that hung way down my back in springy curls. Then I got old. And a few pregnancies, a thyroid imbalance and many years later, my hair is dirt brown, frizzy and lifeless. But the good news is: it's short so there's a lot less of it to look at. And a lot less to worry about.
Remember when I talked about shortening up my shower routine? Well yesterday I went and got my hair chopped off and my even shorter 'do will help reduce my shower time even further. Less hair means less shampoo used and less shampoo used means less rinsing. Small change? Yes. But a change nonetheless.
My new 'do saved me roughly 45 seconds of showering (hey, when you're down to a six minute shower, that's nearly a 13% reduction!) and saved me about a 1/2 teaspoon of shampoo. Over one year, that's 3.9 hours of showering and 26 ounces of shampoo. That's roughly 1,000 gallons of water saved just by having short hair! Wow, does that make Sinead O'Connor an environmentalist?
Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5
Well, short hair does need to be cut more, so it means a trip to the salon every other month or so. Definitely not a money saver. And I have to ask the stylist to skip the shampoo treatment and just squirt my hair down, so I'm not wasting additional resources for the cut. Other than that, it's pretty low maintenance. Just like me :-)
Monday, October 8, 2007
Recycling Our Old Washing Machine
If you recall, a couple of months ago our washine machine bit the dust. We replaced it with an uber-efficient LG Front Loader and I tried to Freecycle the old one. This is the first time I have offered something on Freecycle that absolutely no one wanted. I mean, these people gobbled up my used cleaning supplies and old air fresheners, I can't believe no one would want a broken washing machine -- even if it's just to geet some cash for the scrap metal. Oh well. Looks like I'll have to take it to the dump :-( Or do I?.....
Clickety-click-click, enter The Steel Recycling Institute (dun-da-da-DAH!). The Steel Recycling Institute (SRI) is an industry association that promotes and sustains the recycling of all steel products. The SRI educates the solid waste industry, government, business and ultimately the consumer about the benefits of steel's infinite recycling cycle. They rock.
On their site, I was able to access a database of appliance recyclers in my area and found that Gene's Appliances right down the road would be delighted to take my dead washer. I am hoping that they are able to 1. fix it and sell it or 2. harvest its internal parts so that other machines may live. Either way, I will be a happy little camper know that I kept a 150 pound chunk of metal out of the landfill. And I'm sure my washer will be happy to be helping others clean clothing and linens once again.
One greatful wachine machine and one eco-conscience.
Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5
Not as easy as Freecyclin', since I'll have to load it and take there (Gene doesn't have a truck) but no more difficult than taking it to the dump or any other disposal facility.
Don't Run The Water Full Blast While Hand Washing
Did you ever notice how when you go to wash your hands, you act like the faucet only has two options --"on" or "off"? I know I do. It's either shooting out full blast or it's off and I never seem to maneuver the handle anywhere in between.
So today I set up my little experiment with a big bucket in the sink to see how much water I use to wash my hands. At full throttle, eight seconds of hand washing (don't freak out, Mom -- NOBODY actually sings the whole alphabet song when they wash their hands) results in 9 cups of water. Then I tried it at half throttle.
Oooops, accidentally went full throttle. Geez, if it's this hard to do when I'm concentrating on it, how am I ever going to stick to this one?!?!? Dump the water and start over.
Try again... ok half throttle, that'll work. Also, once the hands are wet and I'm in sudsing mode, might as well turn the tap off with my elbow. Now time to rinse.
Ooopsie, full throttle again. Of course, it's hard to be too precise when turning the tap on with your elbow. Ah, screw it, just rinse 'em off. OK, clean as a whistle and thoroughly rinsed. Another eight seconds of hand washing. Total water used (even with the full throttle rinse) was three cups.
Lesson learned: Shutting the tap off entirely while sudsing probably made an even bigger difference than going half throttle. Combine that action with going half throttle, and I'd be looking at only two cups of water used.
Assuming I remember the half-throttle part, I'll be saving seven cups of water per handwashing. How much hand-washing do I do each day? Hmmmm, I have two messy kids, a pooping-machine dog, a slight case of OCD, and a bad coffee addiction. I wash my hands at least 16 times per day. That's a savings of 112 cups per day, or over 2,500 gallons per year.
Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5
The only thing that would make this easier is if I had one of the really cool foot-pedal faucets like my dentist has. Then I wouldn't have to try to turn the faucet back on with my elbow.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
Turning A Blind Eye To DH's & DS's Bathroom Habits
Do I really need to say anything more about this? You all know what I mean here. I'm going to stop nagging the boys about not flushing and/or following up after them. 'Nuff said.
Our toilets are very water-conscious at 1.6 gallons per flush. They average about four "forgetfuls" a day, for a total of 6.4 gallons per day.
Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5
It will make me crazy at first but I'm sure I'll get used to it. Who knows maybe I'll even get a little mellow myself.
Saturday, October 6, 2007
Eating Vegetarian One Day a Week
We all know why it's better for the environment to eat lower on the food chain, yes? I talked about it a little when I posted on reducing the amount of beef we eat. But in case you missed that one, here it is in a nutshell: Eating meat simply isn't energy efficient. Animals suck at converting the grains they consume into meat for humans.
This is because they greedily use those grains to fuel their muscles, keep their hearts beating, fire brain synapses, etc. They just don't seem to care that this colossal waste of energy is hurting our environment. Selfish bastards. But the good news is we don't have to wait for the cows, pigs and chickens of the world to see the error of their ways. We have the power to eliminate this horrid inefficiency ourselves. All we need to do is eat vegetarian.
Are you cringing yet? I am. I was born and raised on damn near three daily servings of meat & potatoes and I find it very difficult to imagine a meal that never had a face. However, in an effort to help the environment, I am pledging to go vegetarian. For a whole day. Every week.
From now on, we will be having "Faceless Fridays", where we eschew anything that once had eyelashes and smiled. I'll even skip the milk for me all day and only give the kids a glass with dinner. They'll LOVE being able to drink the normally forbidden juice with lunch and we'll all know that Bad Mommy already gives 'em Swiss Miss for breakfast.
By eliminating one meat day per week, I am reducing our meat consumption by 14%. According to the USDA, the average American consumes 195 pounds of meat each year. With four people in the house, our family then averages 780 pounds of meat. A 14% reduction in that number would mean a savings of 109 pounds of meat, that equates to nearly 4,000 pounds of CO2!
Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5
This will require some creative menu planning, but fortunately my family loves pizza. So if all else fails, we'll be having veggie pizza with IBC Root Beer every Friday night and, honestly, the thought of that puts a smile on my face.... and probably the face of the animal I didn't eat that night :-)
Friday, October 5, 2007
Skipping the Manicure and Going Au Naturale
You've heard me bitch about my pasty-white, rosacea-covered skin and my 1980's Kristie McNichol hairdo. I'm sure I've also complained about my nearly-invisible eyebrow & eyelash set and the extra 20 pounds I carry around. But one thing you'll never hear me whine about are my nails. They are one of the few parts of my body that I actually like.
They are strong, nicely shaped and feminine. Everything I wish the rest of me was. And one of my favorite treats in the world is to get a manicure. And now that the kids are in preschool and I have four hours all to myself each week, I'd love nothing more than to go get pampered with a french manicure ever other week. I thought about this long and hard the other day while waiting to pick up the kids and enviously ogling all the other moms' pretty little pink digits. *sigh* But I've decided I won't.
According to an article published by Earth Talk, "Conventional nail polishes dispensed at most drugstores and nail salons contain a veritable witch's brew of chemicals, including toluene, which has been linked to a wide range of health issues from simple headaches and eye, ear, nose and throat irritation to nervous system disorders and damage to the liver and kidneys.
Another common yet toxic ingredient in conventional nail polish is a chemical plasticizer known as dibutyl phthalate (DBP). According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit research and advocacy organization that campaigns to educate consumers about the health risks of cosmetics, studies have linked DBP to underdeveloped genitals and other reproductive system problems in newborn boys.
As such, DBP is banned from cosmetics in the European Union but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States has taken no such action, even though a recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found DBP and other toxic phthalates in the bloodstreams of every person they tested. Further, five percent of women tested who were of childbearing age (ages 20-40) had up to 45 times more of the chemicals in their bodies than researchers had expected to find."
And so, as with my makeup quandry, I am left wondering what awful, detrimental effects the production of nail polish and polish remover have on the environment. After all, what is bad for the body is generally bad for the Earth (and vice versa). And so, I will be skipping the salon manicure in favor of a more natural look.
At one polish change every other week, I'd easily go through a bottle of the toxic cocktail in a year... and a bottle of acetate remover as well. Imagine if I had pedicures too! I'm also saving all that money I would have otherwise spent at the salon!
Difficulty Level 1 out of 5
Not difficult, just a small bummer. Oh well, maybe I'll take that saved money and get a REAL haircut... something to at least bring me into this millenium.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Replace My Old PVC Shower Curtain With a Cloth Curtain
OK, I think I may have mentioned before that I'm not the best housekeeper in the world. In fact, I might very well be the worst, or at least really, really low on the list. This tends to result in the unintended creation of a virtual playground for mold and mildew, at least in my shower. Now I'm no scientist, but you would think if we had figured out a way to turn black oil into a shiny white sheet of plastic with grommets on top, that we'd be able to mildew-proof it as well. Apparently not. So I'm left with a really gross shower curtain that looks like it's getting its grown up Dalmatian spots.
I tried scrubbing the thing with my eco-friendly cleaning products, but the little spores just laughed at me and ripped the scrubber out of my hands. So, with a heavy heart, I removed the plastic sheet of doom, wadded it up and placed it in the trash (where its volume DOUBLED my trash output for the week) *sigh*.
And I cringe when I tell you this, but this is our third shower curtain this year. That's right, our bath is so teeny-tiny that the all that steam from hubby's long, hot showers just stagnates in there (he doesn't use the fan) and really accelerates the mold growth. Up until now, I have been replacing the curtain every quarter, like the changing of the seasons.
To make matters worse, I have always purchased the standard, cheap PVC curtains for our shower but never knew that PVC is the WORST kind of plastic, both for the environment and for your health. It is dangerous to human health and the environment throughout its entire life cycle, at the factory, in our homes, and in the trash. Our bodies are contaminated with poisonous chemicals released during the PVC lifecycle, such as mercury, dioxins, and phthalates, which may pose irreversible life-long health threats. When produced or burned, PVC plastic releases dioxins, a group of the most potent synthetic chemicals ever tested, which can cause cancer and harm the immune and reproductive systems. Not something you want hanging around your house.
But the news is not all bad -- I have found a PVC-free, machine-washable alternative to the shower curtain dilemma! Right at Target, no less! That's right, it's a polyester (yes, I know where polyester comes from) fabric that is machine washable and 100% PVC-free! No nasty pool-liner smell from the off-gassing. No leeching of phthalates in the house or in a landfill. Plus, since it's machine washable, I won't have to throw it out when it gets all gross!
If you check online, you can find even more alternatives, like organic cotton curtains and hemp ones, but I had already tossed out our old curtain, so I needed something in a hurry. Once again, failing to plan....
Four PVC shower curtains per year, plus the little plastic bag they are packaged in. All in all, that's 17.28 ounces of plastic for each curtain, a total of 69 ounces of "poison plastic" per year. I'm glad to have it out of my house.
Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5
It was actually easier to put up the soft fabric curtain, because it unfolds the way a curtain should. You don't have to fight with it to make it be flat. And I know that throwing it in the wash will be so much easier than trying to scrub it while it's hanging in the shower.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Visit My Local Farmer's Market
Monday, October 1, 2007
Picking Up Dog Poo the Eco-Friendly Way
I know this doesn't apply to a lot of people and I'm sure my country-living friends are laughing their asses off at the mere thought of picking up dog crap. But hey, I'm a true-blue suburbanite now and it kind of comes with the (very small) territory.
You see, our stunningly palatious lot is a whopping two tenths of an acre. That's right folks, and our fenced in portion where the dog is free to roam is a colossal 50' x 20'. That's 1,000 sq feet of space for a 100 pound black lab with an insatiable appetite and two willing, and charitable, little accomplices. You do the math on this one.
I have tried to convince dear Oreo to use one specific corner, which I have "left natural" for her (meaning I don't bother to rake the leaves there). I don't know if I have a very stubborn dog or if I'm just a very gullible person, but this supposedly "simple training technique" of tossing existing poo into the area just ain't workin'. So I am left with the enviable job of "dog poop remover". Yeah, being a stay-at-home-mom isn't quite as glamorous as you might think.
My old method of removal was pretty wasteful: Take two grocery bags and wrap your hand in them (using two bags mitigates the possibility of "breakthrough"). Pick up dog poo with this wrapped hand and place into a third grocery bag. When done, put the first two bags into the third, tie up and toss in the garbage to be taken to the landfill where it will live for a thousand years. Finally, scrub furiously for about five minutes, all the way up to my armpits.
My new method is much more green. Take one biodegradable, corn-based bio-bag and wrap it over your hand (these are sturdier than grocery bags, so no need to double up). Pick up dog poo and toss it over the fence into the tree line where it becomes natural fertilizer. When done, place bio-bag in compost bin. Then, scrub furiously for about five minutes, all the way up to my armpits.
Dog poo duty (hehehe) is usually performed once a week or so. That's 3 plastic bags every week for the sole purpose of dog-crap-on-shoe avoidance. Multiply that by one year, and you've got 156 plastic bags per year, plus all the dog crap that ends up in a landfill, which is not what a landfill should be used for!
Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5
There's definitely a risk involved here. I mean, what if my hand slips and the dog poo flies in an unintended direction? What if it hits the kids? or me? or goes SPLAT on the fence? Oh well, I guess it is this inherent uncertainty, the thrill of the unknown, that makes dog-crap-flinging such an extreme sport. Keep an eye out for me at the next X-Games.