Friday, November 30, 2007

Day 133 - Wash N' Wear N' Wear N' Wear...

Wearing Clothing Until It Actually NEEDS Washing


Remember last month, when I thought I was so clever to come up with the idea of wearing my jeans twice before washing them? Yeah, well, turns out -- that's a pretty slippery slope.

Apparently, wearing previously worn jeans is like the gateway drug of garment re-use. Because, folks, I gotta be honest, I am checking damn near every article of clothing to see whether or not I can get a second run out of it. My very scientific method for determining the wearability of any garment is: The Sniff Test. Not all items make it to the test lab (there's a difference between "green" and "gross"), but lots do -- like sweaters, sweatshirts, hoodies, and sweatpants.

Surprisingly, most of my items pass their initial post-wear sniff test. They don't always pass the no-coffee-stains-or-toddler-snot-trails test, but they seem to hold their own against the old nose radar. At least, I think they do. If you see me out and about, maybe you could be a pal, take a whiff, and either confirm or refute my results.

What does my rapid decline into pigpen-mode have to do with the environment? Water. And lots of it. Sweaters are bulky. Sweatshirts are bulky. Hoodies, sweatpants and jeans are all bulky. And they all take up loads (pun intended) of space in the washing machine.


Savings:

If I can get two runs from 8 bulky items per week, I'll save two loads of laundry every month throughout the whole cold weather season. That translates to a savings of over twelve loads of laundry per year: About 144 gallons of water and over 28 kWh saved.


Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5

You always have the fear that your nosedar is wrong and you're walking around smelling like a middle school locker room after basketball tryouts. But, just remember: Those that mind - don't matter; and those that matter - will tell you when you're stinky.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Supplemental Post - Being Carded

Update on Christmas Cards


A couple of weeks ago, I posted about my Christmas Card dilemma as part of my Christmas Planning Series. My quandry was that I love to send out holiday cards to friends and family, but it's not a very eco-friendly thing to do. The options, as I saw them, were:


1. Don't send any cards at all
2. Send e-cards
3. Send cards made from recycled paper and soy inks
4. Send whatever card I like

I asked for your opinions and were surprised to learn that most of my tree-hugging friends felt it was ok to indulge in some holiday cards, especially in the spirit of the season. Of course, we all knew I was just going to ignore the advice and make my own decision anyhow.

But I hate the thought of all of you staying up late nights, worrying about my decision, so I thought I'd let you know I have decided to go with a combination of #1 and #4. I couldn't resist the funny cards at VistaPrint and had to get them. I'm hoping their message will inspire some eco-talk amongst the recipients, or at least get a couple of chuckles. But, to help "offset" my purchase a bit, I will be trimming down my Christmas Card list this year.

I didn't know where to draw the line between friends, acquaintances and social contacts, so I came up with this little litmus test: If someone is a close enough friend or relative that I could call them up and ask to borrow something or bitch about stuff, then they are someone who should get a card. So if you get a card from me this year, feel lucky, but don't answer your phone because it might be me needing something. Or feeling bitchy.

Day 132 - Shut 'Er Down

Shutting Down the House When On Vacation

I thought I had pretty much covered all my Green Holiday Plans but then today I was scheduling our Christmas trip and realized I hadn't talked about shutting down the house. It's something that I mean to do every time we go on vacation, but I never actually get around to it. This is because by the time we're ready to go, I've whipped myself into a minivan-packing, mapquest-printing, reservation-checking frenzy and have forgotten all about my side job as an eco-maniac. But, after giving it much thought, I think I have come up with a solution:

The Checklist.

Because there's nothing an obsessive-compulsive, ex-bean counting Mommy loves more than a nice excel spreadsheet with checkboxes. Oohhhh, be still my heart. Here's what's on my sheet:

  • Turn Water Heater Down
  • Set Thermostat to 50 degrees
  • Unplug TV/DVD/Cable Box
  • Shut off All the Lights
  • Unplug Laptop and Printer
  • Unplug Coffee Pot
  • Close all Drapes (to keep the heat in)
  • Close Upstairs Vents
  • Shut all Upstairs Door (to keep the heat downstairs where the lone thermostat sits)
  • Unplug Alarm Clocks

So what do you think? Is there anything I missed? Probably, but just remember the first two items will put me leaps and bounds ahead of what I had previously been doing - which was nothing. Plus, did I mention I have CHECKBOXES on my sheet?


Savings:

Gonna have to WAG this one again and guesstimate a daily savings of 2 Ccf per day (depending on the exterior temperature). Our holiday vacation will be five days this year, for a monthly savings of 10 Ccf. I'd also guesstimate approximately 8 kWh per day (compared to what I would have used if I hadn't unplugged stuff), for a total vacation savings of 40 kWh.


Difficulty Level: 3 out of 5

It's definitely a bit of a hassle. I mean, the last thing you want to do when the kids are all hyped up and hubby is itching to hit the road is to take five minutes to go through a checklist. But you know what -- it's FIVE MINUTES. They can wait five minutes. Who knows, maybe they'll do something constructive with the time, like use it to go pee before we get in the car for ten hours. Besides -- there are checkboxes, people.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Day 131 - I Can Mash Potato

Cooking Like Dear Old Dad


My Dad used to live with us when we were still up in New York and he was - and still is - a hell of a cook. The downside to having a hell of a cook live with you is that they're always messing with whatever you're cooking and it's really freakin' annoying.
For instance, anytime I would be cooking mashed potatoes or carrots or anything boiled on the stove, he would wait until the pot was steaming, shut off the burner, slap on a lid and proclaim "It ain't gonna get any hotter!".

Being the good daughter that I am, I of course asked Dear Father what he meant so that I could learn from his great wisdom and experience. NOT! I rolled my eyes, muttered something under my breath about 'old coots' and turned the heat back on so the food would cook. Dammit.

It wasn't until last week when I was chefing up dinner with the kids that it actually hit me. Daphne asked me "What Dat?" (the relentless 2 year old inquiry), indicating the steam rising from the pot. I explained to her that water is a liquid, at least until it reaches 212 degrees, at which point it can't get any hotter as a liquid so it turns into a steam. You know, cuz two year olds are all about physics and stuff.

And it was during this little lesson that the lightbulb went off. The old coot was right. It wasn't gonna get any hotter. Thirty-five years it took me to get that one, folks. Sorry 'bout that, Dad. ;-)

So now, whenever cooking potatoes, carrots, sweet corn or pasta, I will remember my Dad's great wisdom and shut off the burner when the water reaches its maximum heat level. The food will continue to cook and I'll save some watts in the process.


Savings:

At an average of 800 watts per burner, and about 10 minutes of wasted heat per item, I'll be saving .1333 kWh per boiled item. We eat pasta weekly and average two boiled veggies during that time, for a total of three boiled menu items per week. Assuming each item takes the same amount of time to cook (which they don't, but hey, cut me some slack, would ya?), I'll be saving 1.73 kWh per month or 20.77 kWh per year. It's not a huge savings, but every little bit adds up.


Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5

No extra work involved here, other than remembering to shut off the burner when I see the steam. And, of course, having to admit to my Dad that he was right.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Supplemental Post - From Toilet to Tap

There's a very interesting article in today's New York Times that talks about a new water purification system in Orange County, California. It just goes to show you that for every problem, there is a solution. You just need to look hard and ignore the naysayers.

Day 130 - Feelin' Hot! Hot! Hot!

Consolidating My Oven Use to Once Per Day

Ever since I learned about how much electricity my oven sucks up, I've been looking for ways to cut down on its use. You might say it's been a "burning" desire.

But that would be really lame.

Oh well, just one more month of using the insanely energy-draining oven and then, if Santa got my note, I'll be able to save lots of electricity with my new (or used) Toaster Oven. While I'm waiting, though, I have devised a plan that should help save some of the juice associated with the 5,000 watt range.

I will consolidate any and all oven use to once per day (assuming I use it at all). So, if I need to make a batch of granola, the kids want cookies and I'm making pork chops for supper, it's all gonna get cooked up at the same time - varying temperatures, lengthened cooking times and cross smellination be damned. This will be lots of fun -- like learning to juggle butcher knives and prairie dogs simultaneously.

If they cannot be cooked together (like if they won't all fit in at once), I will at least cook all the items back-to-back, thereby saving the energy that would have been required to preheat the darn thing twice.


Savings:

I only use the oven twice a day about twice a week. Good grief, I wrote that sentence and even I don't understand it. What I mean is that, roughly two days per week, I find myself in the situation of needing to cook multiple items. Better?

Savings is estimated to be about 30 minutes, twice per week at 350 degrees, which is somewhere in the neighborhood of a little more than 5 kWh. In one year, that's 261 kWh (for you finance types, that equates to a dollar savings of $28.78). Not bad - that right there'll get me a large pepperoni pizza and a dozen wings - all cooked by someone else!


Difficulty Level: 3 out of 5

This is going to require both planning acumen and spacial relation skills, neither of which I possess. Fear not, though, I have a meat thermometer and a set of pot holders. And one hot idea.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Supplemental Post - Keepin' It Going....

Hey everyone! Beth at Fake Plastic Fish just gave me a little mention in her blog for sending unwanted plastic back (an idea I got from her). So, I wanted to let everyone know that Green Bean at Grean Bean Dreams has also decided to start returning her unwanted plastic as well.

So what do you think, folks? How long can we keep this going? Long enough to get 10 people to start doing this? 20? Someone once asked me how many people it takes to get a movement going, well let's find out.

And hey, if you're ready to start doing this (even just occasionally), leave a comment and let me know!

Power to the plastic-free people!

Hoping someone out there comes up with a better catchphrase than that. These campaigns die without a cool slogan! ;-)

Day 129 - Virtually Spot-Free

Changing My Dishwashing Detergent


I have already switched all of my cleaning supplies and my fabric softener from chemical-laden concoctions to more earth-friendly solutions. And I have finally used up the last of my Cascade Complete Dishwasher Detergent. So now I will be replacing my mainstream Proctor & Gamble product with Tree-Hugging Seventh Generation Dishwasher Soap.

Now you may be thinking "Hey, Erin - aren't you worried that your fine china will no longer sparkle like diamonds?" My answer to that is "Last time I checked, Corelleware ain't china and if you're invited to my house for dinner, you should be much more concerned about the dog fur in your meatloaf than about the streaks on your glasses." Besides, it's better for the environment -and that takes precedence over a spot-free shine.

Just so's you know, Cascade Complete contains up to 0.5% phosphorous, in the form of phosphates. We all know phosphates are "bad", but I only recently bothered to find out why. Here, in a nutshell, is why phosphates should be avoided:

During water treatment, phosphates are often not removed properly, so the phosphates you put down the drain will likely end up back in our lakes, rivers and streams. Due to this constant addition of phosphates by humans (they are found in many detergents, as well as in manufacturing), the phosphor balance gets out of whack, which results in an increase in the growth of algae. This algae not only consumes lots of oxygen, but also prevents sunlight from penetrating the water, making it unlivable for many other organisms, like fish, tadpoles and other little swimmers.

But there's more than just the phosphate issue.

The perfumes contained within the Cascade detergent received a Proctor & Gamble Health Hazard Rating of "Moderate". You know it's bad when the manufacturer actually acknowledges an inherent risk in their own product with a threat level of 2 on a scale of 0-4. Now, call me crazy, but here's a thought: How's about leaving out the faux lemon-fresh scent and decreasing the health risk a tad? I think a lot of people would be willing to make that citrusy-scented sacrifice, don't you?

Unlike Cascade, the Seventh Generation detergent is 100% phosphate-free, poses no known health risks and is presumable safer for the environment. As an added bonus, they do not test on animals or use any animal ingredients. I'm not saying Cascade does, but they don't carry the "No Animal Testing" logo on their bottle, which makes ya wonder.


Savings:
At a concentration level of 1 gram per tablespoon and I use approximately 2 tablespoons per load, I would be saving 2 grams of phosphates per load. I wash roughly six loads per week, or 312 loads per year. That's 624 grams of unnecessary phosphates I'm saving per year.


Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5

Can I just tell you, I love these "replacement" changes. They are so easy to make and they don't require oodles of brain power, which I like to conserve whenever possible. I am simply swapping out one damaging product for one with a lesser environmental impact. Easy peasy.

So far, every replacement product I've tried has been a success. The only complaint I've ever had, and continue to have, is that all of these replacement products are sequestered over in the health-nut area of Kroger, rather than placed on the main shelves with their competitors. Apparently, this grouping of "like with like" is a virtually impossible task.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

What's Black and White and Read All Over?

Well, the Richmond Times Dispatch did publish my letter this week, although they snipped quite a bit out and put it in the "Your 2 Cents" column on the back page of the editorial section. Kind of weird to see my name in the paper. That hasn't happened since I was 21 and I .... well, nevermind. ;-)

I had a wonderful weekend with my stepdaughter, Mom, sister, B-I-L, niece and nephew here. I only wish my Dad, along with my other sister and B-I-L had been able to make it. Just 4 1/2 more weeks, though and we'll all be together to celebrate Christmas in upstate New York!

For now, the house is sadly quiet. The kids are "resting" with The Incredibles and hubby has left to take my stepdaughter back home. I should use this time to get my house back in order before the week starts -- and I think I will.

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Gobble Gobble Gobble!

Well, the family is starting to arrive and I am very much looking forward to a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration! I hope you all enjoy the holiday and take a moment to count your blessings. I am thankful for a great many things in my life -- all of them people.

Or chocolate.

But mostly people.

Anyhow, I'm going to take a couple of days off to enjoy some quality time with my family. I hope you get to do the same. In the meantime, enjoy this little holiday film I found on YouTube:



See you Monday!

- Erin

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Supplemental Post - Stop The Presses!

Holy crap, I think they're going to print my Letter to the Editor! I just got a call from the Richmond Times Dispatch, asking if I had submitted a letter to them. Yikes. I need to go throw up now.... ;-)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Day 128 - Hot Frozen Cross Buns

Signing Up For Crunchy Chicken's "Freeze Yer Buns" Challenge


Last month, Crunchy Chicken posted a new challenge for all of her readers: Set your thermostat for as low as possible and keep it that way till spring. I LOVED the idea and immediately signed up! The idea is not, necessarily, to go to drastic extremes, but "to get you to drop at least one degree."

I initially pledged to keep my thermostat set at 65 during the day and 60 at night, but after throwing extra blankets on all the beds, I quickly found that the nighttime temp was actually too WARM and had to adjust it down to 55.

Want to know what else happened when I dropped the temperature? The kids slept in longer. Shhhhhhh. Don't let them hear my secret. I don't know why, but I swear it's true. Ethan hasn't wandered downstairs before 7:00 am and Daphne sleeps in till almost 8:00 am! I, too, am sleeping more soundly, as the house doesn't feel as dry and it's keeping all of our snoring to a minumum.


Savings:
According to Crunchy, for every degree set below 68 degrees, energy consumption drops 6-8%. My heat is generated via our water heater, which makes calculating the difference a little more difficult, since it's always "on" regardless of whether or not the heat is running. Our average gas consumption last year (November 1 - April 30) was 75 Ccf per month, so, I'm going to take a WAG and say that I'll be looking at an average of about 60 Ccf per month. this year. I will let you know if that average actually holds true.


Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5
I like it. Hubby? eh. I think he'd prefer a warmer house and I often catch him turning up the heat when he thinks I'm not looking. But, since I control the temps from 10 pm - 6 pm Monday through Friday, I think he's allowed his indulgence for a few hours at night and on the weekends. Afterall, I may have frozen buns, but I also have a warm heart. Sometimes.

Day 127 - Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Bathing The Kids Just Twice a Week
Caveat: Unless they're really gross.

Summer is officially over. Well, it has been for a while now, but it finally feels over here in Richmond, "hotter than the surface of the sun" Virginia. I know, you desert dwellers out there are laughing at me, but remember - I'm from Northern New York where 45 is considered "shorts and a sweatshirt" weather and you don't wear a coat until your snot freezes.

Geez Louise, I've just started this post and already I'm off on a tangent. What the hell was I supposed to be posting about anyhow?

Oh yeah, fewer baths for the kids. Right.

Anyhow, this cooler weather translates to cleaner kids. Less sweating, a lot less mud to play in, and fewer worms to dig. They don't sparkle or anything, but they don't leave sludge trails either. So, to conserve some more precious H2O, I will be dropping the number of weekly baths for the kiddos from three to two.

It helps that both of them are now officially potty trained and tend to urinate on themselves a lot less these days. Of course, this whole plan gets tossed out the window if one of them rolls in dog crap or vomits on themselves.

And don't go feeling all sorry for them -- they're not huge bath fans anyhow. Ethan has some hydrophobia issues that are cured only by the lure of a plastic submarine and Daphne has her Mommy's white Irish skin that dries out like the Sahara in winter. Trust me, they'll both be happier this way.


Savings:

I fill their tubs up pretty full, so I'd guesstimate it's about 30 gallons of water for each bath. I'm a mean mommy, though and make them bathe together, so that one tubful covers both of them. At 30 gallons per week and the cool weather lasting through till the end of April, I'd say we're looking at a savings of roughly 720 gallons a year.

Now think about this: If the entire "dirty dozen" of Ethan's preschool classmates did this, together we'd save nearly 9,000 gallons of water. And, if the whole preschool joined us, it would be about 78,000 gallons per year. For perspective, that's enough clean water to meet the drinking needs of over 200 people for a full year... from just one preschool.


Difficult Level: 1 out of 5

Another one of those changes that it's real easy to get behind! No more whining, no more soaking wet Mommies, no more unintended floor moppings. Dude, Sign Me Up.



PS... HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!!!!! :-)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Day 126 - Rising to the Occasion

Making My Own Bread Dough, Instead of Buying Frozen

We are a family of carbo-haulics here. We go through a giant size loaf of bread each week, in addition to a loaf or two of home-baked italian bread. We eat pasta every Wednesday and each meal contains AT LEAST one carb item. For snacks, we like most anything of the starchy persuasion and consume Cheez-its and Goldfish like they're going out of style.

To say we like our breads is like saying George Bush is most incompetent leader in the history of the world: it's a slight understatement.

In fact, we like our breads so much that I buy one six-pack of frozen bread dough every two weeks. The dough is made who knows where, frozen, packaged in a plastic bag and then shipped in a refrigerated truck to Kroger where it sits some more in the freezer there. That's a whole lot of energy use just for me to have frozen bread dough.

The really sad news? I own a bread machine.

Mmhmm. It's not that I'm so busy I can't make time to knead bread. It's that I'm so lazy I can't dump flour and water into an electric box and push "start". Well, Sportacus from Lazy Town called and told me to get off my dead ass and start making my own dough. So I guess I will.


Savings:

Difficult to quantify, but I would guarantee it requires more energy to produce, package, ship and store the frozen bread dough than it would for me to make fresh dough in my bread machine.


Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5

It's actually really easy to make the bread dough in the machine. The hard part is REMEMBERING to make it ahead of time so that it has time to rise and cook before supper. I guess I could make up a dozen bread dough loaves on a Sunday and freeze them myself. That just feels so June Cleaver-ish, though.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Day 125 - Back From Whence It Came

Sending Back Unwanted Plastic

I know I've mentioned doing this before, but I thought I'd make it all official with its very own post. This is a great idea that I totally stole from Beth at www.fakeplasticfish.com. She's chock full of great ideas about how to avoid plastic and the she doesn't seem to mind sharing them :-). Thanks, Beth!

Anyhow, sometimes people send you unsolicited plastic. Sometimes you inadvertently purchase it. However you got it, if it's not recyclable, think about sending it back. Beth does and now I'm going to do it too.

In fact, I already have. Twice this week.

The first items taken back were #6 plastic hangers. I was cleaning up the spare room, getting ready for company, when I found a whole stash of those white plastic hangers the kids pajamas came on. They're not something you can just separate while waiting in line at the store, because in their infinite wisdom, the manufacturer punches tags through the individual tops and bottoms, as well as the hanger. This results in a hanger that cannot be physically removed from the clothing until you get some free time and a set of garden shears.

There was a manufacturer name on the hangers, so I looked them up online and gave them a call. Turns out they manufacturer hangers for Target, Walmart and the like. They rely on the stores to return the hangers to them who, in turn, get the hangers back to the manufacturers for reuse. They went on to tell me that I could not ship the hangers back to them, but that any Walmart or Target store would be happy to take them back.

Turns out, it's actually TRUE! I went to Target this week, swung by the returns counter and the lady happily took my hangers in threw them in a huge bin with a bunch of other hangers. Don't you just love it when the circle of "use, return, reuse" actually works?!

The other plastic I got came from a very unlikely source: My new Wind-Farm Energy Supplier. Surprised? I was too. I was shocked to find in my Welcome Package a plastic film meant to be placed over a light switch that touts the advantages of switching your energy supplier to one who utilizes a renewable energy source. Yeah, hmmmmmmmm. I guess I'm having a lot of WTF moments this week. Anyhow, here's what I sent to them (along with the plastic film):


November 14, 2007

Kristy O’Hearne
Product and Operations Manger, Green Electricity
Pepco Energy Services
1300 North 17th Street, Suite 1600
Arlington, VA 22209

Dear Kristy:

Thank you very much for welcoming me to Pepco Energy Services! I am trying, like many Americans, to “go green” and look forward to obtaining my electricity from a renewable energy source!

I was disappointed, however, to see that you had sent a plastic film (PVC?) Switch Plate Cover with the welcome letter. As I’m sure you know, the production of plastic is a very polluting endeavor which releases a multitude of chemicals, including carcinogenic dioxins, into the atmosphere. It is also made from petroleum, a very limited, non-renewable resource.

I am therefore returning the plastic doo-dad to you for reuse. Please do not send me any additional plastics.

Thank you, Kristy! I look forward to helping fund the installation of more Pepco Wind Farms!

Regards,


Erin


Pepco Customer, Concerned Citizen and Avid Blogger

http://www.burbanmom.blogspot.com/



It's like I'm getting ballsier by the minute, isn't it folks?


Savings:

A dozen plastic hangers and one plastic film. In the course of a year, that's probably about 24 plastic hangers though. By the time my kids graduate high school and move out, I'll have saved over 400 #6 plastic hangers from the landfill!


Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5

These two items were pretty easy to return and the only cost to me was some time and a postage stamp. However, it might be more costly to send back other unwanted plastics, such as over-packaged stuff. Yet another reason to be diligent in my avoidance of packing nuts.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Day 124 - Respect My Authority!

Questioning Authority


So you all know that young Ethan has been sick with strep throat this week. We went to the doctor, who gave him antibiotics, which he is taking as prescribed. While there, the doctor also told me to throw out his old, germ-ridden toothbrush and replace it with a new one.

Which I did.
And immediately regretted.

After all, his "old" toothbrush was a super-cool Spiderman toothbrush that had been purchased only last month. As soon as I got the new toothbrush home and unwrapped it from its plastic sheathing, I mentally kicked myself in the ass (I am far too uncoordinated to do this physically).

Instead of following doctor's orders for a new toothbrush, I should have taken a moment to ask one simple question: "Can't I disinfect his old one?". The answer, for those of you sitting on the edge of your seats, is "Yes". I checked online and there are a number of ways to accomplish this task. The simplest of which would be to stick it in the dishwasher with all the forks and spoons and Voila! the brush would have been sanitized. Sometimes I hate hindsight. It makes me feel dumb.

So, why did I blindly follow this woman's orders, even though it went against every new Green (and every old Cheap) fiber in my being? Because she is The Doctor and therefore she Knows Best. But wait, I'm not 11 anymore. In fact, I ain't even close. I think it's time for me to start questioning authority occasionally.

That's not to say I will toss free advice from health professionals out the window, but it does mean that I give myself permission to ask questions. Especially ones that will help me find a balance between the needs of my family and the needs of the environment.


Savings:

If I could hop in my time machine, I would save two brand new toothbrushes (because you can't get something for The Boy without getting something for The Girl).


Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5

Disinfecting the toothbrush would be super easy. Questioning the doctor will take some moxy, but after a week of standing up the the County Waste Program, Dissing Dora and broadcasting details of my period to the world, I think I'm ready for the challenge!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Quiet Riot

"Une Riot Iz An Ugly Zink" - Inspector Kemp

"Americans have always been able to handle austerity and even adversity. Prosperity is what is doing us in." - James Reston

I joined the Riot 4 Austerity a few months ago in an attempt to provide myself with some concrete goals to reach for as I try to live a more sustainable life. Recently, R4A has asked each its members to write up a "Day in the Life of a Rioter". So grab some No-Doze and a can of Red Bull and I'll tell you all about it.

5:30 AM - Alarm goes off, I hit snooze.

5:39 AM - Alarm goes off, I hit snooze and nudge hubby.

5:48 AM - Alarm goes off, I nudge snooze and hit hubby.

5:49 AM - Hubby gets in shower.

5:50 AM - Guilt forces me out of bed, and into the chilly morning of our house where it is now a brisk 55 degrees. Brrrr. I haul my cold butt downstairs and make coffee, (toss the old filter and grounds in the compost bucket and grab a fresh, unbleached filter to use).

5:55 AM - Head back upstairs, shake out yesterday's jeans, pick out a clean shirt and brush my teeth. Pee, possibly poo and take my meds too.

6:00 AM - Hop in the shower, depending on the day I may or may not shampoo my short hair.

6:05 AM - Get dressed and finish my morning ablutions with a little toner and some makeup.

Wow, we're only to 6:00 AM and I'm already so bored that I'm considering watching SportsNet with hubby. I can't believe you're still reading this. You're a better person than I am. So, as not to keep you hanging....

6:10 AM - Head downstairs, pour a cup of coffee for me, one for hubby and pour the rest in a carafe so I can shut off the coffee pot. Kiss hubby goodbye as he heads off to work.

6:15 AM - Feed and water the dog and let her out to poo. Turn on laptop, check email and update eco-blog.

7:00 AM - The kids start to wake up. Turn on cartoons till their moods improve and get them their cocoas and breakfasts.

7:30 AM - Eat my breakfast.

8:00 AM - Wrangle the kids into their clothes, pack their snacks, and get them ready to go to preschool.

9:00 AM - Head out for preschool, driving through morning traffic. Run a couple errands on my way back home, stopping for a latte if I have some spare cash. At home, do a load of laundry in our front-loader, maybe do a little cleaning while groovin' to my iPod and possibly start dinner in the crockpot.

12:00 PM - Go pickup kids from preschool and head back home. Make everyone lunch and play inside with the kids or, better yet, take them for a nature walk.

2:00 PM - Rest time for kiddos, work time for me. Print out new orders and shipping labels. Hop online to pay bills, answer more emails and do some mindless surfing and some research for tomorrow's blog entry.

3:30 PM - Rest time is over and the kids are excited to go get the mail, hoping for a card or letter, but settling for an LL Bean Catalog and an offer from American Express. Hang out some more or play outside.

5:00 PM - Finish up dinner, set the table (with cloth napkins, of course), toss all the toys back in the playroom, scrape the playdough off the floor and unstick the lollipop from the television.

6:00 PM - Eat dinner.

6:30 PM - Wrap up leftovers, clear plates and load dishwasher.

7:00 PM - Depending on the day, it might be bath time for kiddos which will give me a chance to scrub off the marker and pen ink (where DID she get that pen anyhow?!?!).

8:00 PM - Put the kiddos to bed and grab a nice, cold, hard cider. Relax on couch with hubby, watching Dirty Jobs, Man vs. Wild, Survivor or "Must See TV".

10:00 PM - Go to bed

Well, that's my day, folks. Of course, along the way I recycle, try to limit my purchases and pay very close attention to packaging. I buy my electricity from a windfarm and write letters to my representatives. It's hard to say when, exactly, these things get done, but they always do.

As you can see, it's definitely not the life of Paris or Britney. It's boring, repetitive and chock full of mundane chores. Basically, it's like your life.

It's not glamorous but we're not living in a van down by the river either. I do all the same things that other stay-at-home moms all around the US do, I just do them a little differently. There is a happy medium between excess and suffering. And if we don't start working together to find it, we may all find ourselves quickly shifting from the former to the latter.

Supplemental Post - Charity Starts At Home

Helping Those Less Fortunate This Holiday Season

I think my plans for ensuring an environmentally friendly holiday are pretty much set, but I just wanted to remind everyone out there to give a little something back. Not that you all wouldn't, but sometimes we get so caught up in our own holiday plans that we simply forget about helping those less fortunate.

Next week almost all of us will be sitting down to a great feast and counting our blessings. Think about how lucky you are to live in a part of the world where clean drinking water is readily available, food is bountiful and shelter is obtainable for nearly everyone.

Please, before the shopping and cooking of Thanksgiving get started; Before the relatives arrive and the arguments start; Before Black Friday and Cyber Monday are upon us; Before you put up that fake plastic tree with the long silver icicles; Please, take a moment to locate a program in your area that provides meals, toys, coats, or simply your time to those in need. It will be the best gift you give yourself this holiday season.

And before I get caught up in all the hullaballoo, I want to be sure to give you my best for a safe, healthy and happy holiday season. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukka, Kwanzaa, Yule, or a 'Festivus for the Rest Of Us', I wish you many blessings.


Please send candy canes.


- Erin

Day 123 - Rx For a Healthier Planet

Fighting Antibiotic Resistance

Ethan's sick. The poor kiddo has strep throat, and the doctor prescribed an antibiotic to help fight the infection. As you may know, antibiotic resistance has become a major cause of concern in the medical community. New "superbugs" are evolving rapidly and science is finding it difficult to keep up. Here's some information I found at the Food And Drug Administration's site*:

When penicillin became widely available during the second world war, it was a medical miracle, rapidly vanquishing the biggest wartime killer--infected wounds. Discovered initially by a French medical student, Ernest Duchesne, in 1896, and then rediscovered by Scottish physician Alexander Fleming in 1928, the product of the soil mold Penicillium crippled many types of disease-causing bacteria. But just four years after drug companies began mass-producing penicillin in 1943, microbes began appearing that could resist it.

The first bug to battle penicillin was Staphylococcus aureus. This bacterium is often a harmless passenger in the human body, but it can cause illness, such as pneumonia or toxic shock syndrome, when it overgrows or produces a toxin. In 1967, another type of penicillin-resistant pneumonia, caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae and called pneumococcus, surfaced in a remote village in Papua New Guinea. At about the same time, American military personnel in southeast Asia were acquiring penicillin-resistant gonorrhea from prostitutes. By 1976, when the soldiers had come home, they brought the new strain of gonorrhea with them, and physicians had to find new drugs to treat it. In 1983, a hospital-acquired intestinal infection caused by the bacterium Enterococcus faecium joined the list of bugs that outwit penicillin.

Antibiotic resistance spreads fast. Between 1979 and 1987, for example, only 0.02 percent of pneumococcus strains infecting a large number of patients surveyed by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were penicillin-resistant. CDC's survey included 13 hospitals in 12 states. Today, 6.6 percent of pneumococcus strains are resistant, according to a report in the June 15, 1994, Journal of the American Medical Association by Robert F. Breiman, M.D., and colleagues at CDC. The agency also reports that in 1992, 13,300 hospital patients died of bacterial infections that were resistant to antibiotic treatment.

Why has this happened?

"There was complacency in the 1980s. The perception was that we had licked the bacterial infection problem. Drug companies weren't working on new agents. They were concentrating on other areas, such as viral infections," says Michael Blum, M.D., medical officer in the Food and Drug Administration's division of anti-infective drug products. "In the meantime, resistance increased to a number of commonly used antibiotics, possibly related to overuse of antibiotics. In the 1990s, we've come to a point for certain infections that we don't have agents available."

Antibiotic resistance results from gene action. Bacteria acquire genes conferring resistance in any of three ways: Spontaneous DNA mutation, overuse of antibiotics and misuse of antibiotics.

While you and I can't do anything about spontaneous DNA mutations, we can avoid overuse and misuse of antibiotics. Here's how I'm going to avoid them:

  • I won't eat meat that came from antibiotic-injected animals (the label will usually say antibiotic and hormone-free)
  • I will wash my hands often, so I don't get sick in the first place, but I will skip the antibiotic soap. Most experts feel that thorough scrubbing with plain old regular soap is just as effective anyhow.
  • I will only take prescribed antibiotics for bacterial infections.
  • I will only take prescribed antibiotics when necessary (I could have Ethan wait 2-3 weeks and he would eventually get over the strep. My problem is that I have babies coming to visit next week and can't risk passing the infection to them.).
  • I will finish my prescribed course! Do NOT stop taking your antibiotics halfway through your prescribed treatment, just because you feel better. You need to be sure you KILLED all those bacteria, instead of just doping them up!

Savings:

I'm not saving polar bears or spotted owls, just those damn humans again who always seem to get themselves into a pickle.

Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5

Hmmmm, hard to resist the lure of a good drug -- especially if it offers the promise of nearly immediate relief of a sore throat. However, if you can just remember that how your take your medicine affects all of us, that's a start.

*It was a very interesting article and it's got a lot more information than I quoted here. If you'd like to read the whole thing, you can access it here.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Supplemental Post - WTF?!?!?!?!

OK, now I'm wondering why I don't write MORE letters to the editor. Here's another local article that has me scratching my head in bewilderment.

Chesterfield to try vulture harassment; extermination still an option
From NBC12 News


At last night’s Chesterfield Board of Supervisors meeting, residents and officials discussed what could be done about the destructive vultures at the Dutch Gap conservation area.

The Board of Supervisors said whatever option they choose to handle the birds, it's going to be costly. The vultures have been hanging around Dutch Gap for years, eating the rubber off the outside of vehicles.


Chesterfield - along with the USDA - wants to use intense harassment to drive the vultures away for good. This alternative to killing the birds would cost about $5,000, but officials say killing the vultures would still be the last resort.

"We would like to find a way to not have to kill the birds,” said Mike Golden of Chesterfield Parks and Recreation. “We have the Dutch Gap conservation area - 800 acres. The county has invested working with wildlife all that we can.”

Chesterfield County and the USDA plans to start the intense harassment at the end of the month. The USDA says that even if that method works, the county would have to continue the harassment to keep the birds away for good.


OK, well, at least I now know where the county wil be using all the money it's saving on the recycling ban. Is it just me or has someone changed the definition "conservation area"? Apparently, they are trying to conserve vehicles. OMG WTF?!?!?!?!!?

Day 122 - Letters to the Editor

Calling Bullshit When I See It

Have you noticed how commercial environmentalism has become? Everyone from movie stars to football franchises, governments and even giant BoxMart stores all want to be seen as environmentally friendly. And that's great, as long as they're backing up all the talk with action.

BUT.

Don't try to tell me it's green when it's black -- I'm not color blind. And now, inspired by my daily dose of Blue Girl, Red State, I WILL call you on it.

Example: One week ago, our county decided to ban new residents from participating in the bi-weekly curbside recycling (to save money, of course). The story got a mention on the late night news, but that was about it. The next week, there was a HUGE - I'm talking front page - write up about how the county was on the cutting edge of green-ness and was a leader in the arena of environmental protection and waste management.

Smell bullshit? I did. And so, for the first time ever, I actually sat down and wrote a "Letter to the Editor". I might not be the most eloquent writer, but if I don't call it out, who will? I can't sit back and hope others will put their neck on the line, just because I don't want people to think I'm "one of those" angry, letter-writing people. Here's what I wrote:

There was an interesting article in this week's Richmond Times Dispatch's Sunday Pullout about Chesterfield's waste division being accepted into the EPA's Performance Track program. While I do applaud their efforts to recycle vehicle oil to heat buildings, I really think it would be a stretch to say that Chesterfield County's Waste Program is a "leader in the country".

Just last week, the Water and Resource Recovery Department instituted a ban that would prohibit new residents from participating in the curbside recycling program. If Chesterfield County really wanted to be a leader in environmental protection, they could begin by not only allowing, but REQUIRING all residents and business to recycle their paper, glass and aluminum. And would, of course, follow through by providing the necessary curbside resources to support such a mandate.

I'm pleased to see that Chesterfield County's application to the EPA PT program was accepted (as virtually all applicants are), however, perhaps instead of applying for government funded programs that lower their priority for routine inspections, they could put their resources to better use by maintaining the county's sorely needed curbside recycling program.



Not exactly poetry, but I think I got my point across. Hopefully this will draw some attention to the fact that while being able to slap a cool EPA logo on your letterhead is nice, what is more important is to ensure that all of our residents are able to do one of the most basic of environmental tasks: RECYCLE.

Savings:

None. :-(

Difficulty Level: 4 out of 5

Why so difficult? Well, despite all my tough talk about calling people out, it is something I HATE TO DO. I'm always afraid of offending people (makes you wonder why I don't shut my mouth more often then, doesn't it?). My fear is that this decision was made by someone with great intentions and here I am crapping all over their idea. Part of me secretly hopes the newspaper doesn't publish it!



Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Supplemental Post - Name That Toon

Ethan is Sick and I'm Bored :-(

I've been snuggling on the couch with Ethan this morning, trying to get him to rest, and we've been watching those mind-numbing cartoons on Noggin. I am about ready to stick my head in the oven and turn it on "clean". And not just because it's disgustingly crusty in there.

Dora especially kills me. Where the hell are her parents? Don't they care that she's running around in spooky forests, crossing troll bridges and canoeing across ponds while being chased by bears - her only chaperone a mentally-challenged primate with a shoe fetish? And can't they find her a shirt that fits properly somewhere in that magic backpack?

And why can't all criminals be deterred as easily as Swiper the Fox? Wouldn't it be nice if we could just put up our hand and say "Mugger, no mugging!, Mugger, no mugging! Mugger, no mugging!" and watch the felon slink away with a finger snap and an "Oh Man!"?

Geez, two hours at home on a weekday and already I've got cabin fever. It's going to be a very long winter.

Day 121 - Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad

Setting Rules for My Childrens' Presents

Yes, this is yet another post about how I plan on greening up the holiday season.

I'm almost finished planning my "Green Christmas". It is now time to set some ground rules for what I can or cannot purchase for my kids. I want their gifts to be fun and engaging, but they must also be relatively eco-friendly.

No, I won't be giving them biobags and recycled toilet paper, but I won't be getting them Transformers and TMX Elmos either. And, since I have already determined that I can give only twelve gifts to each child, I want to make sure that every present is a perfect fit.


Therefore, I have decided to set the following criteria for purchases and each gift must meet at least two out of these three standards. Because, as Meatloaf taught us, two out three ain't bad.

  1. The gift must be made out of a renewable resource. (NO PLASTICRAP)
  2. The gift must be made in the USA to avoid the whole shipping-pollution issue.
  3. The gift must foster or otherwise promote good stewardship or love of the outdoors.

Of course, if I feel that Daphne just CANNOT be denied a Baby Alive, I can get her one -- as long as I buy it second-hand. That is my 'get out of jail free card'.

I've already started compiling a list, based, not on what Toys R Us has told me is "hot this season", but on my childs' actual interests. So far, I have:


For Ethan (4 years old):

  • A Bicycle (#2 & #3)
  • Piggy Bank (#1 & #2)
  • Worm, Bug or Other Critter Habitat (#2 & #3)
  • Seeds, Dirt & Terra Cotta Planters (#1, #2 & #3) -- Believe it or not, he's ASKED for this!
  • Slippers (#2 & #3 -- I've reprogrammed the thermostat and it's really cold in the house!)
  • Tom & Jerry DVD (Used)
  • Memory Card Game (#1 & #2)

For Daphne (2 1/2 ):

  • A Dollhouse (#1 & #2)
  • Dollhouse Furniture (#1 & #2)
  • Piggy Bank (#1 & #2)
  • Slippers (#2 & #3 - BRRRRRR)
  • Hello Kitty DVD (Used)
  • Wooden Musical Instruments (#1 & #2) (yeah, I think I'll add "earplugs" to my wishlist)

So as you can see, it's really not that hard to pick environmentally friendly presents. I mean, really, plasticrap just entered the scene a generation or two ago and little children have been given toys for millenia! The trick is to make sure the presents you give won't last for a millenium in the landfill. Because the kids may want them, they may need them, but there ain't no way they're ever gonna compost them!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Day 120 - The 12 Gifts of Christmas

Limiting the Number of Gifts I Give My Kids

Continuing to plan my green holiday season....

Every parent wants to give their children a wonderful Christmas, full of family activities, good food and lots of great presents. Who doesn't love to see the wide-eyed look of a child as he comes down to see the bounty left under the tree by old Kris Kringle? It's one of the few times of the year when you feel like you can really make your child's wild little dreams come true.

But, have we gone overboard? Do we give our kids too much? Undoubtedly we do. All in the spirit of giving, but still, it's just too much stuff. Too much emphasis on consumerism and having all the latest plastic toys. I am hoping against hope that it is not too late to change the way we celebrate and I'm going to start by changing the sheer number of gifts we give. I will opt for quality over quantity and will not lead my children to believe the the number of gifts they receive in any way correlates to how much they are loved.

Plus it's less stuff I have to wrap.


Savings:

I'm trying to recollect how many presents each child received last year and I simply cannot. This fact alone tells me that they received more than they should have. This year, I will limit each child to a MAXIMUM of twelve gifts - and this includes the little toys stuck into stockings. That means six presents from Mommy & Daddy and six presents from the guy in the red suit. Twelve gifts is more than enough for any child. And it's much more than most other children in the world will recieve this year.


Difficulty Level: 5 out of 5

It is very difficult for me not to cast aside my eco-conscious when it comes to my children (Just look at how I fold like a house of cards every time we go to McDonald's). I love to feel like the fairy god mother who grants their wishes with a wave and a smile. However, I need to continually remind myself that denying them a Barbie or Transformer is not the same as withholding love.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Day 119 - Girl Talk

Having an Eco-Friendly Period

****WARNING WARNING WARNING****

THIS POST IS ABOUT MY PERIOD. IF YOU ARE SQUEAMISH ABOUT THIS TOPIC, OR IF YOU ARE MY DAD, PLEASE STOP READING NOW!


OK, ladies, looks like the men all left. Now we can do what we always do when the men think we're talking about our periods and continue our plot to take over the world. Now, Hillary called me last night and she thinks....

What? They're still here? Oh crap. Never mind, I guess we'll really have to talk about it then.

Let's rewind to a time about five months ago when I was so rudely awakened from my hypnotic, disposable-loving, consumeristic euphoria. Sister Heather and I were discussing various eco-friendly changes we could be making and she relayed the following story about her friend, whom I'll call Amber.*

Amber is a pretty eco-conscious gal who borders on crunchy-granola. She had recently attended some sort of fair or vendor gathering or whatnot where she met a woman who was spouting the virtues or reusable pads.

As she explained to Amber, the pads were made from organic cotton and could be fastened to your underwear with little snaps. When the pad needs to be changed, you simply unsnap it and place it in a bucket of water to soak off most of the blood. At the end of your period, you would then ring out your pre-soaked pads and run them through a wash cycle. The woman went on to explain that the "soaking water" should not be dumped down the toilet, but should be used for watering the garden, as it is extremely high in nutrients and acts as sort of an all-natural Miracle-Gro.

According to Amber, the vendor wasn't very successful in trying to convince women to switch to the eco-friendly pads. She also wasn't having much luck selling her home-grown tomatoes.

Well, I'm not quite ready to go that far with my period yet, but I am going to dip my toe into the pool of period-protection options by switching to NatraCare brand panty-liners. Unlike my Kotex liners, these ones are manufactured using non-chlorine bleach, they are plastic-free and biodegradable.


Savings:

Due to my selection of birth-control (a whole other post), a dozen panty-liners per month usually covers all my girly needs. In the course of one year, that's 144 plastic-backed panty-liners I'll be avoiding.


Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5

Once I found where the store kept them (because GOD FORBID they put them with all the OTHER panty-liners) this became another one of those super-easy changes to make. Now I really can have a happy period, despite what Hubby says.


*Please note, Amber may actually be her name. As usual, I wasn't really paying that close attention to the details. I'm more of a "big picture" listener.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Day 118 - Dear Santa

Creating an Eco-Friendly Wish List

This is yet another post about How I'm Planning to Green Up My Holiday Season.

We all know it's better to give than receive, but we're gonna talk about my wish list before we handle the gift list. After all, mine is relatively short and I already have it made out. (Trying my best to stick to The Compact has helped me to differentiate between items I truly want or need vs. the desires du jour.)

I have only one criteria for the items on my list. They must all, in one way or another, help me to further reduce my ecological footprint. I know, I know, it's an oxymoron to say I'm going to BUY things to REDUCE my footprint. I know this. I live this. I preach this. Hubby does not. If I tell him that I don't want anything for Christmas, he will go out and buy me something that eats baby seals, drinks petroleum and farts methane. It will be payback for not being more specific.

And speaking of specific, you should know that hubby and I don't beat around the bush when it comes to "wish lists". We know our spending caps and we each create our own List of Demands. Not only do we name names, but we give model numbers and manufactured suggested retail price. Should there be any error in our estimations, it is assumed that monetary surpluses will go towards chocolate or Starbucks gift cards. That's just how we roll.

So, back to me and my list:

1. An Oster Toaster Oven - Surprisingly eco-friendly -- Once you get over the fact that it's partially made of plastic. This little appliance, which draws only 1500 watts, will keep me from having to use the full size, energy-sucking 5,000 watt oven at least twice a week. Also, Oster manufactures in the USA so I don't have to worry about the import issue.

2. A Drying Rack - Did I tell you that I can't hang a clothesline here? HOA rules only allow us to put a clothesline in an area of our property where it would sit directly in the shade of the pine trees. It's not worth ruining all my clothes with pine sap, just to avoid the dryer use. However, with a small drying rack I could air-dry all my winter sweaters, thereby reducing my energy use AND making my sweaters last longer.

3. A Smart Strip - Have you heard about these? Ten outlets work together, autoswitching your devices on/off automatically, to save you money on your electric bills. I could plug our TV, DVD and cable box into this power strip. Then, whenever the TV is turned off, all the other items are automatically turned off too.

4. Slippers - Keep my tootsies warm while I've got the thermostat turned down.

5. A Big Cast Iron or Stainless Steel Skillet - I want to get rid of our jumbo-sized non-stick skillet before it starts to flake off teflon into our food. It may not be 100% about the environment, but it's definitely better for me and my family.


That's it folks. There is nothing else I really want and hubby should be able to get all this for under $200. He would actually move UP on my list if he could find all these items used, but I'm pretty sure he'll just head straight for Amazon. Especially if I email him the list and provide the links.


Savings:

Each of these items will help me to reduce my impact. I won't pretend that the initial purchase isn't damaging -- it sure is. Especially if it comes packaged in Styrofoam or plastic wrapping. But again, Hubby will not let me get escape the holiday season without presents, and, let's face it, I'm not that big of a martyr.


Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5

Nothing difficult about this at all. It's a freakin' list of gifts I'm requesting - How could that possibly be difficult? Now, if Hubby doesn't follow the list, then there'll be some difficulty!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Day 117 - Laying My Cards on The Table

Deciding Whether Or Not To Mail Out Christmas Cards

This post is all part of my plan to make my holidays more eco-friendly.

To Send or Not to Send? That is the Question. Is it nobler to acknowledge our family and friends or the environment? This is a tough one for me.

I started sending out Christmas Cards about five years ago and it quickly became a cherished holiday tradition for me. I love picking out the cards, writing personal notes to family and friends, including pictures of the kids and hand-addressing the envelopes. But suddenly I find my wonderful tradition to be in direct conflict with my new environmental awareness. So what do I do?


Here are my alternatives I see them:

1. Don't send any cards at all - This is obviously THE most eco-friendly solution out there, but it is also the biggest joy-suck.

2. Send e-cards - Ugh. Really? I don't think I even want to consider this one. Even I have my "klassy" limits.

3. Send cards made from recycled paper and soy inks - This still requires resources (albeit partially recycled ones) and there's no guarantee that the recipient will, in turn, recycle my card. However, it does give me the warm fuzzy holiday feeling I'm yearning for. Bonus points if I choose a company that donates a portion of my purchase to an environmental cause.

4. Environment be damned and I'll send whatever card I like. - There is a hysterical card that vistaprint is offering this year which shows the merry old sleigh loaded and ready to go, with a reindeer, a polar bear and a penguin hooked up to the leads. Santa is sitting at the reins reading "An Introduction to Hybrid Power". Who would NOT want to send that card?!?!


I really am undecided on this one folks. Help a green girl out, would ya? Tell me what YOU are planning on doing this year as well as what you think I should do. I will then, in the tradition of great women everywhere, ignore your advice and do whatever the hell I want.


- Erin

Friday, November 9, 2007

Day 116 - The Sound of Music

Opting for Digital Downloads Instead of CDs

I'm only 35, but in my lifetime I've seen many different media used for music. When I was a kid we had a groovy Hi-Fi stereo that played LPs and 8-Tracks. When I was a teenager, I got a stylin' walkman that played all my favorite Duran Duran tapes. Then, sometime in my drunken twenties, they came out with CD's -- which looked like records, but were smaller, shinier and promised to be THE absolute pinnacle of music media.

Last June I got an iPod.

Now MP3 files are the only way to go -- for me, at least. I believe that this format actually will be the final form of music. Sure, the file type may change, but digital downloads won't. (OK, make a note of that prediction so you can fly back here in your space hovercraft in 2048 to tell me what a fool I was) I LOVE that I can buy just the single song that I want, as opposed to the whole damn album. But more important, I will never go back to the wasteful packaging, the shiny plastic disks, and the transportation required to get them to me.


Savings:

Before my iPod, I would have purchased or otherwise created about a dozen CDs per year. As we all know, I'm as average a person as you can get, so let's imagine that say, 25% of Americans out there do the same. What would happen if we all decided to stop building a huge, visible CD collection and opted for a small hard drive of music files instead? Why, we'd save over 900 MILLION discs per year.


Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5

It's easy to not buy the CDs, the hard part is to not go overboard shopping at iTunes. But knowing that I'm saving all that plastic and fuel? That's music to my ears.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Day 115 - Deck The Halls

Environmentally-friendly Holiday Decorations

For those of you who might have missed my post last week, I am attempting to plan an eco-friendly holiday season this year.

Each year I seem to find some new holiday-themed knick-knacks or decorations that I absolutely cannot live without. I buy them with wanton disregard for how they are made, what they are made of and where they come from.

As a general rule, these sparkly little chotchkies are plastic-based crap made in polluting factories then cargo-shipped from China to be sold at Wal-Mart. They may be fake (sorry, "faux") pine boughs glued to a styrofoam wreath, big plastic letters wrapped in velvet that spell out nonsensical words when rearranged by hubby, or a giant inflatable Santa in a globe with swirling polyethelyne snow beads.

I love them all.

But, I will no longer be purchasing any of this lame-ass crap. None of it. No matter how sparkly it is. And to ensure that I don't, I have developed the following plan:


  1. I will make do with the decorations I already have.

  2. I will create my own lame-ass decorations with my children.

  3. And, if a moment of weakness does arrive, I will purchase hand-crafted decorations made from sustainable materials and produced by local artisans.


Of course, that artisan stuff is usually pretty pricey, so I'll probably just stick with the first two options. I may no longer be tacky, but I'm still cheap.

Savings:

Based on previous years' experience, I would guesstimate that I will be saving approximately 8-10 pounds of pure crap and all the CO2 pollution that comes with it.



Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5

The trick with this is to STAY THE HELL OUT OF WAL-MART AND TARGET! If I don't see it, I won't want it. God help me if I end up needed underwear, method handsoap or giant bags of candy though.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Day 114 - The Gifts That Keep On Giving

Giving Pre-Owned Gifts

Nobody wants to get a "used" present, but who wouldn't love a nice, vintage, pre-owned gift? Hey, if the fancy, hyphenated wording gets us to buy cars and old clothing, won't it work for children's toys too? This is one of the ways I will be greening up my Christmas. It's all part of my plan to create an environmentally friendly holiday season.

Not all the gifts I give will be pre-owned, but this will be my "get out of jail free" or rather, my "give plastic crap from China without guilt" card. Of course I will avoid any recalled items, but other than that I will be allowed to buy as many used items as my budget will allow.

I already know of one pre-owned gift I'll be giving. The recipient is my very discerning nephew, who will be all of 11 months old this Christmas. He's a very happy-go-lucky little fella and I'm sure he'll be pleased as punch to get one of Daphne's hand-me-down toys.

I'm also sure his mom will be pleased -- since I'm not spending any money on new toys, he will receive the full $50 gift allotment straight into his 529 college savings plan. Hey, we've only got a few years to get away with this kind of trickery before the youngin's wise up. Might as well work it while we can.

I am so grateful that I have the kind of family that is not hung up on "new stuff" and is happy to oblige me and my green-ness. They geniunely prefer homemade to store-bought and wholeheartedly believe that it is, in fact, the thought that counts. They also agree that a pre-owned toy is just as good as a new one -- better, in fact, since someone else has already wrenched it from the packaging with the jaws of life.

So thank you, dear family, for being as green as a Christmas wreath and as sweet as eggnog (made from organic sugar, free-range-hen-laid eggs and locally-produced, happy-cow milk) You guys rock!


Savings:

I'll definitely be saving a lot of money on these toys! I'll also be saving the energy that would have been required to make and ship the original toy, plus the packaging. I've said it before but it bears repeating -- one of the easiest and most effective ways to have a positive impact on our planet is to simply reuse our existing items.


Difficulty Level: 3 out of 5

It's not a difficult task, but it is a difficult stigma that we all need to just get over, myself included. "New" is not synonymous with "better" and "used" does not necessarily mean "used up".

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Day 113 - Rock The Vote

Casting My Vote for Candidates Who Share My Concerns

Today is election day! The day when all us average joes can go out and cast our ballot for a brighter future. In small towns and big cities across the country, a paltry 35% of eligible Americans will go to the polls to decide various state and local races.

I beg you, oh informed and enlightened ones - cast your ballots!

That is all.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Day 112 - Gobble Gobble!

Planning an Eco-Friendly Thanksgiving Meal

With Thanksgiving less than three weeks away, it's time to start planning the menu. I want to try to make it as environmentally friendly as possible, while still including all of the traditional family dishes.

The piece de la resistance will be the bird, of course. We will be eating a big turkey, probably 16 pounds or so. I would love to get a free range bird from a local farm but it's just not in the cards. Hubby's employer always buys everyone in the company a turkey for Thanksgiving and it would be considered very rude of us not to take it. I will gladly accept the free bird in the spirit in which it is given and be thankful that dh works for a great company with such a kind-hearted boss.

That leaves stuffing, mashed potatoes, winter squash, green bean casserole, rolls, gravy, corn, beverages and pies. Let's attack each item seperately:

I use my Dad's awesome stuffing recipe which is a combination of stale bread, breakfast sausage, celery, onion, chicken broth and spices. I could easily make my own bread, but I will instead take all the "leftover" breads in the freezers and dry them - thereby ensuring they get used rather than tossed out the next time I clean the freezer. For the sausage, I will start looking for an eco-friendly source this week. The celery and onion will both be purchased from the farm stand and I will make the broth myself. I wish I had a spice garden of my own, but I don't, so I will use the spices that are already in my cupboard.

The potatoes and winter squash can also be purchased from the market, but I'm not sure about the green beans. I will check this week to see if they still have some. If not, I might just forget the casserole, as I have no idea how to make my own condensed mushroom soup anyhow!

The rolls and gravy I will make from scratch on Thanksgiving.

Corn. Hmmmmm. I really wish I had purchased a few extra ears this summer and frozen them for just such an occasion. Hindsight being 20/20 and all, I guess the best I can do is buy a can of corn and make a mental note for next year. You can't NOT have corn if you have gravy and potatoes. It's un-American and, quite possibly, illegal.

Beverages are easy. I already purchase local, organic milk in reusable glass containers. I will also offer up some local cider and wine for those who prefer something sweet with dinner. If none of those work, I've always got lots of bottled water. JOKING -- Just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

Desserts? Get me. I'm going to try to make a pumpkin pie from..... a pumpkin! No shit! I hear it can be done and Ethan said he would even try it if I managed to not screw it up. I'll also get some local apples and make a nice apple crisp for hubby. It's his favorite.


Savings:

Not much, really. I'll be trying to serve as many local, seasonal foods as possible so the food miles will be a bit lower than they would have otherwise been. And if I do need to purchase something out of season or canned/frozen, I'll be sure to buy organic.


Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5

Wow, this was easier than I thought it would be. The only to-do's on my list are to find an eco-friendly breakfast sausage and see what's still coming in to the farm stand. Of course, making all these items from scratch, instead of just opening cans and jars will be a bit more work. But when you're surrounded by family and counting your blessings, it's hard to bitch about stirring gravy.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Day 111 - I Wanna Be Sedated

Only Take Medication When Necessary

I'b sick. I hab a head code. By doze is stuffy, by ears are plugged, by eyes are puffy and I can't breade. I deed drugs.

But as my fellow blogger at It Must Be The Vapors once posted, "You are what you don't shit". Which is a great reminder to all of us that what goes in our bodies eventually comes back out and gets flushed down the crapper. And none of us is so disconnected as to think that it just magically disappears after that. No sirree. It is then "treated" with a myriad of chemicals to ensure proper pH levels and such and then released back into our waters, lakes and oceans.

So, in an effort to save not only my liver, but also the planet, I will be refraining from my standard, self-medicating modus operandi. That is to say, I will not be popping pills left and right in an effort to unstuff, unplug and anesthetize myself into a euphoric stupor until every symptom has passed.

Instead, I will spend the days eating chicken soup with cumin and cayenne and drinking hot mulled cider. At night, when I desperately need my sleep, I will take a decongestant, but will make sure I don't take any of those multi-indication concoctions to treat symptoms I do not have.

Spare the Nyquil, save the world.


Savings:

During the course of the winter, I'll get sick probably five times (I have two snot-nosed toddlers -- be amazed that I'm not perpetually ill).

Each cold would normally have me popping two multi-symptom pills every six hours and a cold generally lasts about a week. So, that's 56 pills I would normally take, each containing a minimum of three separate active ingredients, for a total of 168 individual ingredient doses. Instead, I'll be taking a maximum of 14 decongestant-only pills, plus about 20 Tylenol.

So, to extrapolate a bit further, during the course of my five illnesses, I'll be saving 670 individual chemical doses. Wow. That stuff really adds up!


Difficulty Level: 3 out of 5

Impossible? No. Pleasant? Not exactly. But you know, sometimes getting sick is a sign from your body that you need to slow down and take it easy. Rather than drugging up and trying to plow through my days as I normally would, I'll focus on getting well and just let the laundry pile up.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Day 110 - Ixnay on the Apwray

No Wrapping Paper This Year

Before I start the post, is it just me or does Blogger seem to change the paragraphs on everyone else out there too? I mean, I can have all my paragraph spacing the way I want it, hit "Publish" and BOOM! Suddenly I have about 37 carriage returns

between

each

thought.

Except today when it decided to squishallmyparagraphstogetherlikeonebigrunonsentence,similartothisonerighthere.

Rant over, posting starts here.

OK, continue with my Holiday Plan, this year I will not purchase any gift wrap for the presents I buy. Instead I will:

1. Reuse the gift bags I currently have
2. Reuse the tissue paper stash I have
3. Wrap in comics (for gift giving at home, so I know it will be recycled)
4. Sew up Gift Bags
5. Make bows out of real ribbons that can be reused

Personally, I've always done #1 and #2, not because I've always been eco-conscious, but because I've always been cheap.

I used to do #3 when I was a kid and I'm sure my kids will like it too. I need to start saving those comics now though, to make sure I have enough.

I've done #4 a couple of times with hard-to-wrap items and it's really quite a simple task. It helps that I sew for a meager living and have all the tools and materials already handy.

#5 will be tricky for me, though. I've never been a good bow-tier (that doesn't look like "Tie-Er", which is what I mean to say, not "tier" like a wedding cake layer). Anyhow, I'm going to stop by Michaels and see if one of those crafty ladies will show me how to make a fancy bow.


Savings:

If I remember correctly, last year we stuffed two 13 gallon trash bags with wrapping paper, gift tags, bows and other miscellaneous trimmings. This year, I hope to cut that number in half. At least in half.


Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5

Knowing that I'll have to be creative in my wrapping, and possibly have to sew gift bags, I think I will be more motivated to keep the shear number of gifts to a minimum! Good for the earth, good for the cheapskate's wallet.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Day 109 - Oh Christmas Tree!

Deciding on an Eco-Friendly Holiday Tree


First item on "The Plan" is the tree. Not because it is the centerpiece of the holidays (although it is) but because it is the easiest decision to make. And I have chosen:


[drumroll...............]


A giant, fake, plastic, imported tree covered with tiny, energy-sucking lightbulbs!


Tada! Wasn't that easy and oh so eco-friendly?

It's not? Are you sure?

I'm pretty sure this is the most eco-friendly choice for me and here's why: I already own the damn thing and it's sitting up in my attic.

One of the easiest ways for me to check the green-ness of any of my ideas is to start with the question: "will this cost me anything?". If the answer is "Yes", I can be 95% assured that it has some sort of NEW impact on the environment. However, if it is something I already own, then the damage has already been done and the best I can do is take good care of it and use it well. Which is what I'm going to do with my seven foot fake plastic tree.

Will my friends that know about my green conversion give me a ration of shit for having a petro-based, lead paint covered tree made by starving 5 year olds in a foreign country? You betcha! They wouldn't be my friends if they didn't. But you know, throwing out a perfectly good fake tree in lieu of a potted evergreen would simply be giving the appearance of being eco-friendly. And that is not what this is about.

I will make one improvement over last year, though. I will take my auto timer (which I already own!) and plug the tree into it so that it is only lit from 6pm - 9pm each night.


Savings:

No new environmental impact, save the minimal energy used for the lights.


Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5

Very simple concept, however pulling the damn thing down out of the attic and scaring all the spiders out of the branches is always a yuletide bitch.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Day 108 - Half the Fun is to Plan the Plan

Formulate a Plan for the Holidays

Halloween was AWESOME! The kids had a blast hosting a party for some of their friends and then trick-or-treating last night. But now it's over and we're all suffering from severe sugar hangovers today.

Despite the pounding headache and upset tummy I still managed to spend the morning packing away the pumpkin and ghost decorations until next year and I'm already starting to think about the upcoming Holiday Trifecta. I want to start planning now so that I don't get caught up in the festivities (like I did with Ethan's birthday) and end up making poor eco-choices.

So, starting today I will be researching all sorts of holiday ideas from free-range turkeys to recycled Christmas cards and organic New Year's bubbly. Most importantly, I will have a serious tete-a-tete with dh to make sure we are on the same page when it comes to holiday gift giving (ie: less is more, homemade is best, LIMIT THE PLASTIC CRAP!).

Some famous dude said "He who fails to plan, plans to fail". I do not plan on failing this year.

That being said, I'd love to hear your suggestions!


Savings:

None yet, will calculate each change as I actually implement it.


Difficulty Level: 3 out of 5

The planning stages are always the most difficult for me. It takes time and effort to plan and there's no instant gratification that comes along with the planning. However, if I try to "just wing it", I know I will not have the Green Christmas I am hoping for.