Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Santa Came!

And other double entendres.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday today - I sure did!

The kids loved almost all of their presents. Santa apparently pulled a bonehead move and tried to sneak some educational toys into Ethan's stash. The boy declared them "boring" and tossed them aside like an empty bottle of Stolichnaya.

But most of the toys were a hit! Ethan LOVED his new "big boy bike" and spent most of the day riding it in circles around the house. Daphne happily played with her doll house and her tea set (oddly enough, I have no moral objections to buying actual china from China - why is that?).

Hubby got his sports shirts, several books, an i-Pod car adapter and a radio-controlled dragonfly. Him, not so much with the green gift getting. And I try not to push my greenness on anyone who I hadn't actually given birth to. But the kids? Sucks to be them - I feel they owe me for the whole nine months and the labor thing.

I got my toaster oven and smart strip (although hubby is already to rip that sucker out of the wall -- it takes the cable box a full minute to reboot and he just doesn't have that kind of patience). I also got a couple of surprises including the new Richard Russo book (one of my favorite authors) and Stephen Colbert's "I Am America (And So Can You!)".

Somewhere in between the tea parties, dragonfly dodging, bicycle pushing and packing for our trip, I managed to devour that Colbert book. It is HYSTERICAL and I found myself laughing, guffawing, chuckling, chortling and snorting the whole way through it. It is most definitely worthy of the standard "uproariously funny" review given to such literature. I uproared at least six times reading it.

The kids never got dressed and hubby and I spent the whole day in our sweats. We ate mini-chocolate bars and Santa's leftover cookies most of the day. Our Christmas dinner was home-made pizza and root beer. It's kind of like "To Hell With Personal Hygiene Day" but with a dash of "To Hell With Proper Nutrition" thrown in for good measure.

Well, I'll probably be offline for a couple of days here, so have a great one, friends. I'll catch up with you sometime around the New Year!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Water, Water Everywhere....

I think I need a drink...

Well, folks it's Christmas Eve and I'm relaxing on the couch with a cold cider and some warm long johns. It's been quite a day here. We discovered last night that our hot water heater has sprung a leak. A big one. And it soaked through the dry wall in the garage and drenched all of hubby's power tools and building materials.

So instead of spending the day wassailing and going for sleigh rides, we were hauling out the garage, drying off tools and ferrying a generous load of gooey drywall and limp cardboard to the dumpster. But it wasn't all bad.

Ok, it was.

There is no one to call at this point, since tomorrow is Christmas day and we'll be gone for part of the week on vacation. So hubby drilled some holes under the water heater to allow the water to drain into a bucket (remember, the hot water heater is what heats the house, so we can't just drain the whole thing and deal with it when we get back). Fortunately for us, our dog sitter is our next door neighbor and he said he'd keep an eye on it for us.

So as I'm hand-drying routers, sawzalls and drills, I'm feeling a little down about the whole situation. I mean, I'd love to replace the whole damn heating system with a super energy-efficient solar-powered on-demand water heater, whole house fan and heat pump, but we just don't have that much cash laying around. So I know I'm going to settle for replacing the much less efficient gas-powered hot water heater with another one just like it.

But then I started to think about how lucky we are to even have a home. At a time when many Americans are losing everything because they opted for an Adjustable Rate Mortgage - and helplessly watched their monthly payment swell out of control - we should be thanking our stars that I'm a nervous Nelly and opted for a fixed rate. Otherwise, we could be in the same position as many others. So at least we aren't losing our home. It's just disintegrating around us.

But the bottom line is this - Sometimes you do what you can. If cash weren't an issue, we'd be living in a totally green home surrounded by energy efficient appliances, with a wind-turbine outback and R-45 insulation in the walls. However, like most Americans, cash is an issue. A big one. And it sometimes prevents me from going as green as I'd like.

So I make the changes I can with the money or time that I've got and call it a day. What else can I do?

Merry Christmas to All, And to All, A Dry Night.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Supplemental Post - Family

The Ties That Bind... And Gag

My family is awesome. I'm not just saying this because they read my blog AND because it's only two days till Christmas AND they paid me to do it. It's because they all are just as nutty as I am and they make me laugh till cold beverages come out my nose.

Since I'm "on vacation" and too busy with Christmas fun to make regular blog updates, I'm recycling a favorite post from my sister, Heather, who has been blogging since they were "web-logs". If you ever thought I had issues.... well, read on.

A little background here. This post was written back in 2003. I don't know if you recall, but there was a rolling blackout in the northeast that year. Sister Heather and her fiancee, Brian were living in an apartment in the Rochester area. That's enough 411 for ya, here's the post.

I've got these big Russian dudes ripping out all the windows of my apartment. They have scaffolding set up outside all my windows and they sit out there smoking cigarettes, and saying stuff like this: "Iusyedtr vjehffeg dofghort oierkdsnf lnfoerh fvlneortg iretjjfng!!!! Hahahahaha!!!"

I spy on them. I can press my eyeball up to the window blinds and spy on them like TWO INCHES from where they are standing and they don't even know I'm there. Of course, since I don't understand what they are talking about, they are probably saying, "Psssst, don't look now, but that BIG SCARY EYEBALL is back in the window again. This chick needs to GET A LIFE."
They are set up outside my SHOWER WINDOW alllllllllllll day. I can't pee. I can't poop. I can't shower because I've got Russian men in my shower window peeking in.

Thursday night is ALWAYS date night, and Brian and I were going to go to dinner and see a movie. I needed to go to Rite Aid Drug Store to get some girly aloe/moisturizer soothing cream 'cuz between the heat, humidity, chafe-y shorts and my sensitive skin, my upper thighs had gotten sweaty and chafed, and I needed relief - not IMMEDIATE relief - but some *eventual* relief.

FINALLY the Russians moved their scaffolding from the window at 3 pm. I needed to color my hair because I look like Gutter Trash Ho, Inc.

I squirted and lathered and basked in ammonia-stink-ooze.

Ten minutes later, at a little after 4 pm yesterday, my power went out. I was miffed, because I was totally grooving on a website all about the Kennedy assassination and the REAL alien autopsy and I lost it.

I figured that the Russians had accidentally cut the power to the apartment, and I was going to give them just a few minutes to fix it before I went Medieval on their hides.

I also figured I'd better hog the entire apartment complex water supply in a hurry, because I'll be buggered if I'm gonna lose all my hair from not washing all that goop out of it, simply because the people next door stole all the water first. I hopped in, lathered up, rinsed off, and was able to hog ALL the water to myself. I exited the bathroom, (still no power), threw on some clothes, headed out to Rite Aid Drug Store for my personal needs, and off to find an ATM for some date night spending scratch.

The Russians said hi as I left and then added, "uhfdrf djnfvouerh sodfhowuef sfmniwhr - Hahahahaha!"

Translation: There's that freaky blonde who keeps staring at us out of her window blinds - Hahahahaha!

Bastards. I hate it when they talk about me.

Anyway, I pulled into Rite Aid and FREAKY-END OF-WORLD GUY is there. The bugger is standing in the door, screaming at the top of his lungs: IT'S HUGE!! IT'S HUGE!!! THE WHOLE U.S. IS WITHOUT POWER!! THE ELECTRIC COMPANIES HAVE SMOKE BILLOWING OUT OF THEM!!! IT'S GOING TO BE WEEKS BEFORE WE GET POWER BACK!!!

I started to freak. With this revelation, I realize that I can't get my feminine moisturizing cream because the power is out; you can't use debit cards when there's no power; I have no cash.
I drove home, can't find a radio station with an update as to why the world has come to an end - none of the radio stations have power.

I arrive home, called Brian - his phone is dead. And by now, I'm sure he is too.

I ring my mom. Mistake? Maybe . . .

Mom: Hello?

Me: DON'T USE YOUR CORDLESS PHONE!! THERE'S NO POWER!! (not really sure what the hell I was thinking)

Mom: (totally confused) Wha?????

Me: are you on your cordless?????

Mom: ummmmm, yeah? Why?


Mom: What???? (clicks tv on)

Me: You got the tv on???? What's happening???? MOM?? IS SOMETHING HAPPENING?????

Mom: (distracted) Yeah, it's on! It's on the news! Quick, turn your tv on!


Mom: (giggle) Oh, yeah. (giggle)



Mom: Busts out laughing



Mom: (Busts out laughing again) Ohhhh, honey. It's ok. Just wait till Brian gets home and you two can have a nice romantic evening (trying to control fits of giggling) OH, WAIT!!! (giggle fit) You CAN'T have a romantic evening!! (giggle fit) YOU COULDN'T GET YOUR FEMININE MOISTURIZING CREAM!!!! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA . . .

Me: (Waiting for mom to settle down with her laughing fit)

So that's how my day went yesterday - I hope you didn't lose power, and if you did, I hope you didn't call mom.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Supplemental Post - Bush is Killing More Polar Bears

Help Send a Message to the EPA

I just recieved this email from Margie Alt at Environment America. She details the problem more succinctly than I could, so I'm just gonna copy and paste it here. Besides, I'm on vacation :-)

"Absurd." 1... "Disgraceful." 2... "A mockery of law and sound public policy." 3
That's what governors, attorneys general and members of Congress have had to say about the Bush administration's decision to stop California and 17 other states from adopting global warming pollution-slashing Clean Cars programs.

Even though cars and trucks are one of the largest and fastest-growing sources of global warming pollution... Even though the EPA has granted California permission to go beyond federal standards on 50 previous occasions... Even though California's program would begin a decade earlier and eliminate three times as much carbon pollution as the new federal mileage standards by 2020.

You can register your protest with the EPA here.

The decision, frankly, stinks, especially coming just hours after the president signed new auto fuel efficiency standards into law. Observers already are speculating that the fix was in for the auto industry. We're ready to push for whatever action it takes -- including a congressional investigation, legal action and more -- to overturn this wrong-headed decision. But step one is registering our outrage with the Bush administration's EPA and Stephen Johnson, the president's hand-picked administrator.

Tell Administrator Johnson to lead, follow or get out of the way of states that want to help America solve global warming by clicking here:

Coming just a week after the meeting on climate change in Bali and Al Gore's acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, this latest decision is more evidence, as if we needed it, of the Bush administration's head-in-the-sand approach to global warming. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised by it, but we don't have to stand for it. Please take action today.

And thank you for all that you've done this past year. Happy holidays to you and yours.

Margie Alt
Environment America Executive

Sources: 1 http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/20/washington/20epa.html
2 http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-epa20dec20,0,1603760.story?coll=la-home-center
3 http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/20/washington/20epa.html?pagewanted=print

Vacation - Day Three

Happy Friday to You and Happy Birthday to My Sister, Shannon!

Woohoo! This is hubby's last day at work then he's off for ten whole days! Hopefully he'll survive his time with me and the kids!

Today is kind of a boring day. I wish we were up north and I could take my big sis out to lunch, but instead we have to take the old minivan in to the dealer. The rear seat needs to be unjammed (I'm guessing there's a plastic McDonald's toy wedged in the mechanism) and have a weird noise checked out. Nothing is more fun than sitting in a dealership for an hour or two with a couple of squirmy toddlers. Wish me luck.

Since we'll be half way down there, we might hit the big fabric store to pick up some fleece or flannel for some draft dodgers (the energy-saving type, not the President Bush kind). I also want to grab some bias tape to play with. I tried using it on an art apron I made last week for Daphne and I really like how easy it is to use! And Ethan and Daphne will both find a "project" there, I'm sure.

Am I boring you yet?

Well, if you're looking for a craft to do this week while you're on vacation -- I have found one for you! And it's not boring at all -- it is SO COOL! Fellow blogger Vera just made a Memory Game for her nephew for Christmas and you have GOT to check it out! I wish I had seen this six months ago, since that's how long it would take ME to make one. However, I just might start working on one for next year. It is hands down the coolest home-made gift for a toddler that I have ever seen!

Have a Fun Friday! Especially if it's your birthday! :-)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Vacation - Day Two

Cement, Gingerbread Men and Sanity

We did another craft today. This is Daddy's "Big Present" from the kiddos. He wanted a sundial, but the kids didn't want to clutter their beautiful design with numbers and a stick, so he's getting a very colorful stepping stone instead. They had a load of fun decorating it together, as you can see. The only problem arose at the end of the project when I caught Daphne licking her fingers off and saying "mmmmmmm, cookie!". Oh well, I'm sure she's ingested worse.

Anyhow, the kit had some templates for various designs you could make. Can you tell what ours is?

That's right. It's an airplane.

We also made gingerbread cookies today. That's always a load of fun. Here's how that went down...

The cookies are quite tasty and it was actually less messy than last year:

Apparently, it was less dangerous too, as Ethan felt secure enough to skip the safety goggles this time around.

We've also watched Frosty the Snowman (twice) and played Candyland about 1,000,000,001 times. Maybe more.

But they will only be young once. I have only so many years of them wanting to do these things. Before I know it, they will no longer think it's fun to play in dirt, have flour fights, eat cookies till you puke, and play board games that only require knowledge of seven colors and various sweets. Or at least, they'll no longer think it's fun to do these things with me.

Now, lest you begin to think I'm June Cleaver or Mary Poppins, let me assure you I am not. By 2:00 pm my left eye is twitchy and I'm starting to wish I had a pack of cigarettes hidden somewhere. Not because my kids are annoying, but because they are toddlers. They are demanding of my time, messy as hell and don't get the concept of wiping either their noses or their butts.

And so, every day at 2pm sharp, I take an hour of guilty indulgence and actually make them sit on the couch and watch a movie - sans Mommy. Not because I believe the television should be used as a babysitter, but because Mommy needs some time to regroup. To sit around and be accountable to no one but me. At 3pm I'll be back on snot-wiping duty, but for now I can read my email, update my blog or just surf the internet.

Now if the dog would just make up her mind about which side of the friggin door she wants to be on, maybe I could relax!!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Vacation - Day One

Making Holiday Crafts

Check it out! It only took six months but I finally figured out how to post pictures from our relatively new digital camera! Apparently, the pixelqualifimizitator was set too high and the imaginisizopher wouldn't automatically shrinkify the jpegination. Or something like that. Anyhow, I changed the file size somehow and voila! Pictures!

This is our petro-plastic tree and two of my favorite ornaments -- the ones we just made using the kids' preschool pictures. The kids have been very busy crafting today... making presents for Mommy & Daddy...

These are oils (I think) on canvas. Now I will have REAL artwork for my walls! :-) Very modern styling, don't you think? Notice they are painting with forks. We also experimented with feathers, Popsicle sticks, sponges and, oh yea, paintbrushes. It was lots of fun! :-)
Only six days left till Christmas!

Happy Festivus!

Taking A Holiday

Hey friends! The kiddos are off from preschool and the holiday fun is really starting now. I'm all done with my shopping, have finished making all my fudge and I even managed to get my Christmas Cards out before the 24th! Hoorah! All that's left is to wrap presents, pack for the trip, and have enjoy myself! It's all fun stuff from here on out and all done in the company of two of the best little helpers around. And by "best", I mean "easily-bribed by cookies".

Anyhow, I'm going to be taking a little break from my daily eco-changes to enjoy the holiday with my family. As always, I will continue with my existing lifestyle modifications, I'm just not going to institute any new changes during this time.

Oh, that's not to say I won't be posting at all. I'm sure I'll occasionally be found ranting about something or going on about the kids. Hell, if I can figure out what I'm doing wrong with my camera, I might even post a few pics. We'll see. No schedules here, not until January 2 anyhow.

Call it an eco-vacation, in the most literal sense of the hyphenated word ;-).

Happy Holidays to you and your family. I hope you enjoy the season in the spirit of goodwill, generosity and family traditions.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Day 149 - Tissue? I Don't Even Know You!

Composting Dirty Tissues

If you've been paying attention, you know that the kiddos have been sick this past week. Thanks to everyone for the well-wishes, they are both doing much better and should be able to go back to preschool today.

Happy, happy, joy, joy :-)

However, over the course of the past six days, we have generated a huge amount of dirty tissues. I hated the thought of having to add all this paper waste to my trash output, especially since I didn't even use tissues made from recycled paper (damn those are scratchy!). So, to assuage my guilt, I turned to my trusty friends in my Compact and Riot newsgroups to get some 411 on composting tissues and other paper products.

Turns out, there is a "black belt composter" in my Compact group who has been turning his tissues into garden goodies for many a year now. He told me they make great brown matter (yeah, I know -- more like "green matter") and that the higher temps generated by the composting action will kill all the nasty germs.

So I set up yet another bin in my trash cupboard for dirty tissues and any other easily broken down papers. For those of you counting, that's now FIVE separate bins: Trash, Wet Compost, Recyclable Plastic/Tin/Glass, Recyclable Paper and now Dry Compost. Thank goodness I'm such an Anal Annie and actually enjoy this kind of psycho-organization.


One cold hitting two kids has produced an entire box (200 tissues) worth of dirty tissues. Let's assume the kids get sick four times this winter and hubby and I each get sick three times. That's a total of seven colds, or 700 tissues from winter colds, plus, let's assume another 300 from your daily boogie-removal, sneezes and whatnot (or would that be "whatsnot"?). At any rate, that's 1,000 tissues being removed from landfills every year and turned into compost.

Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5

Not bad at all. The hard part is getting everyone else in the house to start putting the tissues in the new bin. Of course, I'd be happy if they'd just stop leaving them on the counter. GROSS!!!!!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Day 148 - The Printing Press

Recycling Ink Cartridges

I mentioned just last week that I will be buying recycled copy paper from now on, for use in my home office printer. Well, somehow that small mention of the printer jinxed me, and now my ink cartridge seems to be running out. Grrrr.

There is good news, though. Right down the street from me is a Cartridge World store! For those of you who don't know about CW, they are an Australian based company with over 1500 retail locations worldwide. They were recently rated #1 Franchise by Entrepreneur Magazine and they are a sponsor of the Go Green Initiative. They also back all of their work by a 100% money back guarantee. All in all, they are a company I would like to do business with. And now I can.

I will be taking my ink cartridge down to CW later this week for a refill. That's right -- refill. Prior to my greening, I didn't even know this was an option. I just always bought a new one at Office Max. From now on I will be refilling the little suckers instead. Not only is it better for the environment, but it's actually cheaper than buying new. :-) This is one change I might even be able to convince hubby to try at his office!


According to CW, the average laser jet cartridge can be refilled six or seven times. So that's five or six cartridges I'll be saving from the landfill. I only go through about one cartridge per year, so that means this one cartridge will last me until I'm, um, older.

Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5

This is actually easier than buying new. The store is closer than Office Max and it's in a small strip mall, so it's a quick in and out. Here's a challenge to you -- see if you can get your office to make the switch! If you do, leave me a comment! :-)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Sunday Post

On Kids, Comments and Christmas

Yeah, it's a lazy post day, but since it's Sunday, I figure I can get away with it. Things are crazy around here, as I'm sure they are at your house too. So I'm taking a change-a-day break today and instead will just tell you what's going on here.

The kids are both sick. Ethan appears to have inhaled a giant, green mucous monster that continually makes escape attempts from his left nostril. He still can't "blow" so I'm wiping his nose about every three minutes. If I don't get there in time.... well, you just don't want to know.

Daphne has a slightly more serious condition: The Croup. For those of you who aren't familiar with the malady, it's basically a bad cold that makes your child wheeze like a dog chew toy. It is VERY SCARY and she is on steroids and nebulizer treatments. Fortunately, she is responding very well to treatment and should be fine in another day or two.

My heart goes out to any parent who has a child with asthma or other respiratory illness. Watching your child gasp for air while you helplessly rock her is an awful feeling.

As for comments, wow! You guys are rocking my world! But now I feel bad because I haven't been able to answer all of them. Anyhow, so you don't think I'm ignoring all of you....

To Wendy -- thanks so much for reading! I can't believe you went all the way back to the beginning and read everything! I appreciate your comments and wish you luck in your new blog.... please leave a comment here with the link so I can add it to my blogroll :-)

To Green Bean -- You have some of the best Green Mom ideas on the planet -- thanks for sharing them! :-)

To Leslie -- Glad you like my titles :-) Oftentimes, that's the part that gets the most revisions! I am a FREAK for puns (among other things ;-) and more than once I have selected my daily change based on how funny I think the heading will be.

To Mr. G. -- I asked hubby about the dampers (he's a construction project manager) and he said they usually put dampers on the floors downstairs and in the ceilings upstairs due to framing issues. There's just more "free space" in the basement/crawlspace and attic than there is between the two floors. He actually went on with like a thousand reasons about cold air returns, circulation, ambient air, cost-effectiveness, insulation etc., but I zoned out after I heard the first part. Hope this answers your question!

I think that hits most of the comments, if I failed to answer one of yours, I'm sorry :-( . I'm just not very organized these days.

Other goings-on at the house include the six batches of fudge I've made for teachers and neighbors and the four I have yet to make. I won't mention the two "test batches" that I've eaten and the resulting zit outbreak I'm currently experiencing. Aaaahhhh, the holidays.

Hope you're all having a relaxing Sunday. Apparently, I am :-)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Day 147 - Ty One On

Recycling Tyvek Envelopes

You all know I work from home because I often shamelessly plug my sister's renaissance garb store - The Very Merry Seamstress (thank goodness I didn't do that today, right?). Anyhow, when our lovely customers order a design that requires a brocade, satin or other fancy-shmancy fabric, I generally order just a yard or two online. There are a number of different vendors I use and several of them ship their fabrics in those Tyvek US Post envelopes.

They're one of many free supplies offered at the post office and they are lighter than a box, which reduces the postage requried to ship them. They take up less room to store and can be easily squished to fit in a standard mailbox. This is why so many vendors prefer to use the plastic packages, as opposed to boxes. Personally, I use the boxes because they are much more easily recycled than the Tyvek envelopes. However, I do occasionally recieve materials shipped in them.

These envelopes (and any other Tyvek items) are made of #2 plastic and *may* be accepted in your regular recycling bins. However, check with your local municipal waste management facility before dumping them in there because you never know what their sorting machinery can handle. My county does not accept them in the blue bins, but fortunately for all of us, DuPont has its own Tyvek recycling program. I learned about it from Beth at Fake Plastic Fish, who is a veritable encyclopedia of plastic knowledge!

According to DuPont's website, here's how I can recycle them (in quantities less than 25):

Turn any Tyvek® envelope inside out, so the unprinted white surface shows on the outside. Stuff the inside-out Tyvek® envelope with other used Tyvek® envelopes for recycling.
Address and mail the envelope to:

Tyvek® Recycle
Attn. Shirley Cimburke
2400 Elliham Avenue #A
Richmond, VA 23237

Note the address there. Yeah, I could actually drop these off the next time I'm over on that side of town. How cool is that?

Yes, I know, it would be much cooler if I insisted that all my vendors package their items in recyclable cardboard, rather than down-cyclable plastic, but honestly, I forget to do it most of the time. Senility is setting in fast, my friends.


During my busy season (March - October), I recieve approximately one envelope per week. During my off season, I'd say it's one envelope per month. That gives me a total of 38 envelopes per year. Envelopes that previously would have been trash, will now at least become a fleece sweater or fake wood decking or something. Perfection? No. Improvement? Yes.

Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5

Saving the envelopes is no problem. They are small and are easily stored - even in my tiny sewing room. Even sending them back won't be difficult. As I said, I can either drop them off the next time I find myself in the area, or just pop them in the mail. Of course, if DuPont REALLY wanted to be a Good Company, they'd accept them postage due. Hmmmm. Maybe I'll mention that when I drop them off!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Supplemental Post - Shameful Update

Seriously? You Read My Blog? Again?!?!?!

You'd think someone who bitched about Bush's fecklessnes as passionately as I did would go the extra mile and see if there wasn't something we could all do about it. Fortunately for me, I have somehow managed to surround myself with friends who are much more level-headed and, obviously, much more informed about environmental issues.

BIG THANKS to Green Bean and Mr. G for alerting me to the fact that there is an online global petition, organized by Avaaz, a community of global citizens who take action on the major issues facing the world today.

Here's a blurb from their website:

Climate negotiations in Bali are in crisis. Things were looking good till now: near-consensus on a delicate deal, including 2020 targets for rich countries, in return for which China and the developing world would do their part over time. IPCC scientists have said such targets are needed to prevent catastrophe. But Japan, the US and Canada are banding together to wreck the deal, and the rest of the world is starting to waver...

We can’t let three stubborn governments throw away the planet's future. We have until the end of Friday to do everything we can. Please sign our emergency global petition -- we'll deliver it through stunts at the summit, a full-page ad in the Jakarta Post in Asia, and directly to country delegates to stiffen their nerve against any bad compromise. Add your name to the campaign now!

We call urgently for the US, Canada and Japan to stop blocking serious 2020 targets for emissions reductions, and for the rest of the world to refuse to accept anything less.

To sign the Avaaz worldwide petition, go here.

Thanks Green Bean and Mr. G!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Supplemental Post - Shameful

Seriously? We Elected This Guy? Twice?!?!?!

The good news is, no -- we didn't actually "elect" him twice. He bought his way in on the first one. But the bad news is, he's still there -- and will be for another year. Right at a time when we need someone who actually gives a rat's ass about the environment.

Bush refuses to fucking commit to any solid numbers when it comes to reducing emissions. He might as well get a zamboni and start running over polar bears and penguins now.

If you're wondering what I'm pissed off about, read this article from CNN about how European nations will boycott U.S.-led climate talks next month unless Washington accepts a range of numbers for negotiating deep reductions of global-warming emissions.

Day 146 - Taking My Measurements

Tracking My Progress on The 90% Reduction Challenge

A few months back, I wrote about the Riot for Austerity - a challenge to reduce my emissions to 90% of what the Average American uses, within one year. Now, three months into it, I'm going to post my results for the whole world to see. Some of the numbers surprised me and a few are downright shameful. Of course, posting these measurements is not as ego-pounding as revealing my physical measurements, so feel free to point and laugh. I won't be offended. I rarely never am.

I'm going to assume that most of you reading this blog are like me and are just too lazy to click the link above, so here's a recap:

The 90% figure is borrowed from George Monbiot's plan to avoid reaching a tipping point, beyond which temperature rise will run out of control and major ecosystems will collapse. In Monbiot's book, "Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning" he has presents his views on how to avert this disaster. To avoid hitting the "critical threshold", he says, the world’s total carbon emissions must be reduced to 60 percent below current levels by 2030—a target that would require the developed world (that's you and me, friend) to reduce emissions by 90 percent, in order to compensate for growth in China, India and other developing countries.

In the Challenge there are seven basic categories for reduction: Gasoline; Electricity; Heating and Cooking Energy; Garbage; Water; Consumer Goods; and Food. There are a lot of rules on how to calculate your savings, so that we all measure our success with the same yardstick. You can check out all the rules, averages and factoids here.

So how do I measure up so far? See for yourself...


The average American uses 500 gallons of gasoline per year. I didn't count hubby in on this one, since he has a company vehicle and I don't have access to his information. Instead, I just counted me, the kids and the minivan. So our monthly average American allowance would be 125 gallons.
Over the past three months, we averaged 20 gallons per week, or 86.6 gallons per month. For gasoline consumption, we are at 69% of what the average American uses. :-( Not the worst, but definitely needs improvement! Again, we don't have access to public transportation where I live but I still need to find ways to reduce this.


The average American household uses 900 kWh per month.

Our usage last month was 490 kWh, so for electric consumption we are at 54% of what the average American uses. BUT! Since we utilize wind power, we get a 4-to-1 payback on our usage!

This little bonus means that our usage would actually calculate out at 122.5. That knocks us down to 13.6%! WOO HOO! Of course, the a/c went off that month, but to quote Edna Moles "I never look back darling, it distracts from the now".

Heating and Cooking Energy

The average American household uses 1000 therms per year, 83.3 therms per month.

Our usage last month was 47.15 therms, which puts us at 56% below average. This is scary since October wasn't even really that cold. This is why I'm trying so hard to keep our thermostat low, shut dampers, find leaks, etc.!


The average American generates 4.5 pounds of garbage per day. We have four people in our household, so the average for us would be 126 pounds per week.

We are averaging roughly 60 pounds per week - 47% of the average American's trash output. Can definitely be improved upon. I just need to be more careful about the products I buy.


The average American uses 100 gallons of water per person, per day. With four people in the house, that puts our monthly average at 12,000 gallons.

Our average water usage over the past two months was 3.5 ccf per month. Multiply 3.5 by 748 and you get 2,618 gallons per month. This puts us at 21.8% of the average American! I'm actually pleasantly surprised here! I thought we would be MUCH higher, but I guess all my little changes are starting to add up! :-)

Consumer Goods

The average American household spends $10,000 per year on consumer goods. So our monthly allowance would be $833.33.

I took the four months of July - October (since I have all the records, including credit card statements), and our average monthly consumer goods spending was $697.50. This puts us at nearly 84% of the average American. Not good. This definitely needs to be lowered! I can't imagine what my percentage will be after the holidays. Oy!


This one is nearly impossible, even for a nerd like me, to quantify. The Riot says we should be at 70% locally grown, 25% dry bulk goods and 5% all else. Just looking in my pantry, I'd guess that my averages are more like 10 / 25/ 65, respectively. Pathetic.

I'm hoping to really improve on this next spring. I'd like to have a small veggie garden in the side yard and hope to nut up and go downtown to the farmer's market. Of course, it's always easier to eat locally during the summer months, so to make this a year-round endeavor, I'll have to do a TON of canning and freezing.


Well, I didn't reach 90% in any category, but then again, I didn't really expect to. Honestly, I was pleased just to see that all of my numbers were less than the average American!

Taking the time to look at my numbers has inspired to work harder towards achieving the 90% goal. It showed me that the cumulative effect of my small changes can actually have a pretty big impact. I am hoping that my next update will show even more improvement!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Day 145 - Try a Little Damper, Mate

Closing the Dampers in Rarely-Used Rooms

We've been experiencing some kooky weather patterns here in the Richmond area recently. Last Wednesday it snowed and yesterday it reached 78 degrees. I'm alternating between long johns and tank tops while I wonder if winter is ever truly going to arrive. I am assuming that it will hit soon and so I have been preparing for it by studying our heating system, insulation and general air-tightness, looking for inefficiencies and opportunities for improvement.

One improvement I have made recently was to close several dampers in the house, in an effort to even out the heat distribution. We all learned in middle school science class that heat rises, so it's no surprise to find that, in the winter, our upstairs gets significantly warmer than our downstairs. Unfortunately, we do not have a dual thermostat system, so the furnace stays on until the downstairs thermostat reads 55 degrees - while the upstairs rapidly approaches the melting point of tungsten.

Last weekend I went through the upstairs and closed two vents in the master bedroom and one vent in the master closet. I prefer to sleep in a pretty cold room, loaded up with lots of blankets anyhow. I did leave the vent in the master bath open, just to take the chill out the air during the post-shower dampness, but I'm thinking I'll try closing it, since the heat from the shower really ought to be capable of warming up the not-so-palacious 5'x5' room.

I also closed the vent in my sewing room since 1. It's my slow season and I'm only sewing about twice a week now and 2. The combination of the lights, the machines and me moving around up there always makes the room feel too hot anyhow.

I ended up closing the damper in the kids' bath because they are now only getting a bath two nights a week and I just climb up on the vanity and open it up for bath time, then close it when they're done.

Ethan's room got dampered halfway down, as he is a lot like Mommy in that he sweats like a pig at night. Daphne, however, got to keep her damper open all the way, because it doesn't seem to work very well anyhow (I checked the duct and it looks fine) and any heat that gets through is welcomed.

The guest room already had its vent closed, but I double-checked it anyhow, because I'm OCD like that.

The final step of this process is to instill in hubby and the kids the concept of closing their room doors when they leave. This will take much longer than it took to close the damn dampers, but will help to ensure the warm air from downstairs doesn't just waft up to those rooms.


By closing the upstairs dampers, I will be concentrating the furnace's efforts on the area that needs it most: the downstairs. After all, this is where we spend the majority of our waking time. Once we're upstairs and in bed, it doesn't much matter how cold it gets.

I don't know if I can quantify this, but I will definitely be tracking my gas bill to see if all my little changes add up to big savings compared to last year. I will let you know how the numbers shake out.

Difficulty Level: 3 out of 5

Ugh. We have cathedral ceilings in the master bedroom, so I did have to drag the 12' ladder up from the garage to close our dampers. Also, it is kind of a pain to have to open and close the kids' bath damper twice a week -- especially with my knees hurting -- but I think it's worth the time.

Day 144 - A Little Dab'll Do Ya

Using Less Goop

Big advance apology here for the short post today. I am dog tired. It is 8:48 Monday night and I can barely keep my eyes open. I have been eating like crap ('tis the season, right?) and my jogging career seems to be ending as quickly as it started, due to some serious pain and swelling in my knees. I haven't finished my holiday shopping, the Christmas Cards have yet to be signed and I'm looking at an unpacked box of decorations. It doesn't help that it was 75 out today -- not exactly a big Christmas motivator. Anyhow, if I'm totally unreadable it's only because my eyes are crossed and my head keeps flopping onto the keyboard. Now back to your regularly scheduled blog....

The idea here is simple: use less stuff. It is the basic tenet that drives The Compact and sustainable living in general. However, I'm actually narrowing the scope a bit for this post. I'm talking things like detergents, cleaning supplies, soaps, toothpaste -- you know, "goopy" things.

I've started to push the envelope and see how little goop I can get away with -- in my dishwasher or laundry machine, on my toothbrush or hair, etc. -- and still get the same results. I've found that a lot of these products do a damn fine job, using only 75% or less of whatever the instructions tell me to use.

So the next time you're squeezing something goopy out of a bottle or tube, squeeze a little less. This will stretch the life of the product and the dollar you spent to get it. Best of all, it will lessen the environmental impact of whatever you're using.



Could be calculated, but I'm too sleepy to do so. Let's call it at 25% of all my goopy products.

Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5

Using less is easy, just another habit to change. Now if only I could as easily change my newfound fudge-eating habit. Sugar overload - it'll suck the life right out of ya.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Day 143 - Paraben There, Done That

Ditching All of the Hazardous Children's Personal Care Products

I know you've heard me go on and on about the nasty carcinogenic petro-chemicals in makeup, shampoo, nail polish, kids' babywash and the like, but get ready to hear it again. This week, the folks over at Today's Mama will be featuring my little ol' blog and I wanted to be sure that any of the moms that surf over to my site are made aware of the possible chemical dangers lurking in their kids' bath and body products. (Those of you who are regular readers may be excused, but don't forget, there'll be a quiz on Thursday.)

Many personal care products marketed for infants and toddlers contain a myriad of chemicals that have been proven to carry certain health risks. In fact, some chemicals still allowed in US products have actually been banned in other countries, due to their toxic nature. These chemicals are easily absorbed into the blood stream through our relatively porous skin and new research shows that they spend a lifetime accumulating in our bodies. Scary? Yes. Especially when you consider that we're rubbing this crap all over our little kiddos on a near daily basis. But the good news is - you do have lots of options available and, fortunately, you don't need to be a chemist to find some safe alternatives.

A very simple way to determine the toxicity of the products you're using on your little ones is to surf on over to Skin Deep, a database of personal hygiene products compiled by the Environmental Working Group. There you can simply type in the product name and get a hazard rating, ingredient list and description of possible health concerns related to the item. They even have a great Parent's Buying Guide that will help you quickly find safe alternatives for your children's personal hygiene products.

So, if you're a mom who stumbled on my site and this is the only post of mine you ever read, please, please - take a moment to look up the products you are using on your child and make sure they are the safest ones available. It only takes a moment or two of your time to check them out and the benefits of doing so are great.

Just last night I found a nasty product that I will be ditching in favor of a kinder, more gentler alternative. The kids' bath upstairs had a bottle of Kandoo Foaming Hand Wash which gets a hazard rating of 6 out of 10 on Skin Deep's Database. In fact, according to the site, 90% of liquid hand soaps have fewer health concerns than this soap! Freakin' YIKES!


I can't really quantify the environmental savings here, other than to say that if it's not safe to put on my kids' skin, then it's probably not a very good idea to put those chemicals into our lakes and streams either. And we all know that the sewage treatment facilities simply cannot remove all those chemicals that flow down our drains.

Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5

The Skin Deep site makes checking out your products a simple task and a lot of the alternatives are readily available at your local grocery or drug store. But be forewarned - you may have to wander over into the weird crunchy granola health-nut aisles in your local Krogers to find some of them!

**Special thanks to Beth Terry over at Fake Plastic Fish for bringing the awesome Skin Deep database to my attention! Hope you're enjoying your retreat!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Day 142 - Plugging Up The Holes

Shutting the Door on Unsolicited Flyers

Our mailbox continues to get more than its fair share of unsolicited junk mail, despite all my efforts to stop it from coming. However, there is another problem I have with our mailbox which is the little cubby hole that lies beneath the box itself.

You see, I live in a subdivsion that requires my mailbox be provided by the community association. The association, in their infinite wisdom, felt that a cubby hole beneath the box would be a great way for neighbors to keep in touch, or for the HOA to send out postage-free notices. And if that were how it really worked, I wouldn't have a problem with it. But that isn't how it works.

Instead, it is stuffed on a bi-weekly basis with flyers from damn near every local company that cannot afford "real advertising". The result is an average of 16 pieces of paper advertising companies that I have no desire to buy from. Most of them are real estate agents, painters and cleaning services that I either don't need, can't afford, or just don't care enough to utilize their services.

Well, it is a problem no more. I just went out and filled it with a couple of 2x4 scraps hubby had laying around in the garage and Voila! Advertising hole plugged, flyers avoided, HOA-approved mail station still in compliance.


Sixteen sheets of paper per week, 64 sheets per month, 832 sheets per year. If my whole subdivision did this, we would be saving well over two MILLION sheets of paper per year. That's a lot of trees. Two-hundred seventy six, to be exact.

Difficulty Level: 1 out 5

I put this one off for a long time because I thought it would be difficult. I imagined having to measure and cut a piece of plywood and then nail it over the opening. Then paint the wood to match the HOA-approved color scheme. But now that I'm jogging outside, I've noticed a few other like-minded folks had plugged up their cubbies with 2x4 scraps. Sometimes, it pays to think outside the box. Or, in this case, inside the box.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Day 141 - The Paper Chase

Buying Recycled Copy Paper

I don't go through a ton of copy paper at home. The only items I print out are shipping labels, VMS orders, mapquest directions and my grocery list form that I made in excel which has rows of categorical headers in the same order as they are found in the aisles at Kroger's. Yeah, that's an actual image of it right there - I like to take my geekness to the next level.

Jealous much?

Anyhow, I may not use a lot of paper, but from now on I'm going to make sure that anything I do print out, is printed on recycled paper. Every office supply store these days carries a wide selection of enviro-friendly paper options. Staples offers three different products including Earth Choice, which is FSC Certified, as well as a generic 30% Recycled Content and a 100% Recycled Content paper. The generic recycled paper also has the advantage of being processed without any chlorine or chlorine compounds. Double Bonus!

So from henceforth, rather than ask hubby to grab a ream of any old paper on his way home, I'll be trundling off to Staples myself to buy 100% Recycled Copy Paper.


I'm really raising the bar here, from 0% recycled to 100% recycled. It costs a bit more ($6.49 per ream compared with $4.49 for no recycled content), but it's worth it to me. Now if I could convince hubby to make the switch at his office -- that would really be something!

Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5

Not much extra work, considering I only buy a ream every couple of months. The extra $2.00 hurts, but only because it forces me to listen to hubby's old "going green costs a lot of green" argument.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Day 140 - Let the Sun Shine In

Opening the Curtains to Take Advantage of Solar Heat

OK, I'll admit it. Even this weathered (or "wintered") Upstate New York-er can finally say: It's friggin' cold here. And it is. So cold it even snowed on Wednesday and I violated my compact to buy some long-johns to wear while jogging. With the cold weather settling in, and the thermostat staying low, I'm starting to realize just how much heat is generated when the sun comes shining through our front windows.

Our house, in addition to being poorly designed, is also poorly positioned to take advantage of the sun's warming rays. I suppose in a mostly-too-hot climate like Virginia, it's actually a good thing. But right now - With the cold and all? It's really pissing me off.

The only rooms in our house with southern exposure are the kids' playroom downstairs and the master bedroom upstairs. There are absolutely NO WINDOWS on either the east or west sides, so all of the other rooms, in addition to remaining in a state of total cave darkness, don't get any of that free solar heat.

But to make the most of what I do have, I'm giving the playroom and the master bedroom the ol' open and shut treatment these days. When the sun is shining I make sure to pull back the curtains in those rooms to let all that glowing, golden sunshine warm up my rooms for free.

Do I worry that the neighbors will peek in? Not really. It's way too chilly to be walking around naked anyhow. The best they can hope for is to catch me picking my nose or something. Besides, if they're so bored that the highlight of their day is to spy on the freaky eco-chick and her two kids, then who am I to deny them their entertainment?


I don't have an actual number to put here. Which, of course, bothers the obsessive Mathlete in me. However, I can tell you that the kids and I are spending a lot more time sitting on the floor in the playroom than we are hanging out on the couch in the living room! The end result is that the thought of cheating and turning up the thermostat doesn't cross my mind nearly as often.

Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5

It takes all of one minute to pull back the curtains. I don't have fancy tiebacks or anything, so I just tie them in a knot (yeah, very Martha Stewart of me, right?). I've never been known for my interior design skills and I'm sure it looks just as bad from the outside as it does inside, but whatever. The only really big downer is that nearly every day I have to see exactly how filthy my windows are.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Supplemental Post - Global Warming Argument

Here's a great video clip that lays out the argument for working towards a goal of sustainability to avoid the consequences of global warming -- even if you don't think it exists. It's long for a YouTube video (10 minutes) but it's fun and interesting. It's like watching Alton Brown on Good Eats (my favorite cooking show, of course) :-)

Day 139 - If It's So Good, Why Is It Leftover?

Replating Food When in a Metro Area

Today's post is about a really cool movement underway in major metropolitan areas. It is called replating and it's a wonderfully simple way to reduce waste while helping to feed the hungry.

When in an urban setting, simply place your unwanted leftovers (in a doggie bag of some sort) on top of the nearest trash can so they don't go to waste. The homeless and indigent can more easily access the food this way and it reduces the amount of organic waste that ends up in our landfills. It is truly a win-win situation. Here is the DL and some FAQ's from Replate's website:

We started this project because we noticed that people in West Coast cities and beyond were leaving their leftovers on top of (or next to) garbage cans when they couldn't find someone to give them to. We thought this behavior was worth talking about, so we gave it a name. Now that it has a name, there's been a lot of good conversation. Here are the issues that keep coming up:

Won't the food go bad and make people sick? People are eating food out of the trash. They are digging into public trash cans, pulling out old, dirty food, and eating it. Surely food that's on top of the trash, and not mixed in with the muck, is less likely to make a person ill. Surely food that's in plain sight and easily accessible will be picked up sooner (and thus in a fresher state) than food that's hidden in the trash.

The idea of food left outdoors feels messy. Some have worried that food will rot or that rats will get to it before hungry people do. This is a legitimate concern in small towns or sparsely populated areas, but certainly not in a town like San Francisco where, at any given moment, there are many people without enough to eat.

Why not just eat your own leftovers? Of course. Many of us do. But sometimes you just don't, for any number of reasons. Rather than toss 'em out, or go traipsing through the city looking for a hungry person, maybe the next best thing is to replate them.

Incompatible trash cans. Apparently, New York City trash cans don't have hoods or ledges, so there's no horizontal surface on which to replate. This isn't as big a problem as some have suggested. If you want to give someone the food you're not going to eat, simply put it next to the trash can, or on a newspaper dispenser.

Evil people. There's a strange paranoia in the conversation about evil people poisoning the food. Sure, it could happen. But you could also get pushed in front of the subway train. Or someone could put razor blades in your Halloween candy. People could betray your trust in any number of ways, but if you ride the subway, or eat Halloween candy, you know that the fear far outweighs the actual risk.

The City should officially get involved. Some have suggested formalizing a leftovers drop-off point like a food bank, free dining room, or some city-sponsored receptacle. We think that's a great idea. Make it happen.

If replating your leftovers counts as activism, then the bar for activism is set way too low. Maybe that's true, but though the first steps of activism (however you define it) are small ones, they form the foundation for the giant leaps to come. And replate is just the beginning of a conversation that we hope will inspire greater action. And don't forget that this is an open-source movement. It's yours as much as anybody's, and you can build on it however you want. So if you don't think it's activism yet. And if you want to make replate bigger and badder and more hardcore, we've got a hunch you'll get all the support you'll need.

As you all know, I'm a big, fat chicken when it comes to going downtown here in Richmond, but it I do occasionally find myself in a metro area and I'm sure you do too. So the next time I eat out in a city and can't finish my food, I'll be getting a doggy-bag to replate. Hopefully, by posting about the idea, I will also inspire others, who may dine out more than I, to do the same.


Hmmmm, three times a year? So, three plates of food. But how many of you will do it? And how many people will you tell? If nothing else, it's an interesting topic, bring it up at your next cocktail party and we'll get this idea going, k?

Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5

Leave doggy bag on trash can so someone else can enjoy your leftover rigatoni. Besides, you know it won't taste the same once you get it home and nuke it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Day 138 - Takin' It to the Streets

Exercising Outdoors Instead of On A Machine

Let me start by saying I am not an athletic person. Never have been. My high school athletic career consisted of color guard, winterguard and cheerleading. And I could generally be found in the girls' bathroom smoking cigarettes before and after all of those practices. Oh, I was also on the girls' softball team for a season, but only so I could ride on the same bus with the boys' baseball team.

College didn't involve a lot of sports time either, unless Sambuca shot-drinking was a sport. Which I'm pretty sure it wasn't. During my workin' twenties I was actually at my most athletic -- I joined a bowling league for a few years. Beer, cigarettes and a 140 average. Not exactly Olympic material. Not even Special Olympic material.

But now, at the ripe old age of 35, I've decided it's finally time to get in shape. The metabolism has slowed down, the weight has gone up, and although I quit smoking, I still get winded chasing the kids around. And they're only going to get faster.

I do belong to a local gym, so I could just go hop on some electronic machine in a climate-controlled facility. But I'm not going to waste the energy required for a treadmill when I can get the same results without the electro-sucking devices. Instead, my friend (yes, I have one) and I have started running. Outside. On trails. Like nature intended. If, in fact, nature intended exercise at all. Which I'm not so sure it did.


Assuming I run for half an hour, that's .75 kWh. My goal is to run every day, so that would be 22.5 kWh per month, 270 kWh per year. That is, if I don't fall off the trail and break my leg - a distinct possibility.

Difficulty Level: 3 out of 5

Let's start with the fact that I don't really like exercising in the first place. Add to that the cold, the wind and the uneven trails and you've got a recipe for one cranky, out-of-breath, muscle-achin' runner. But misery loves company and I've got a partner, so I guess I'll keep on keepin' on.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Day 137 - Not the Sharpest Tool In the Shed

Sharpening My Scissors, Instead of Buying New Ones

For those of you who don't know, I work from home, sewing renaissance garb for my sister's online store, The Very Merry Seamstress (shameless commerce plug - feel free to violate your compact and go buy stuff now, please). Anyhow, my busy season for VMS runs from March through October - the prime season for faires, weddings and Halloween parties.

During my slow months, I like to go through all my equipment and make sure I have everything I need and that it's all in good repair. I usually end up buying new scissors at this time, because worn, dull scissors are a seamstress's worst enemy. It's like an accountant having an adding machine with no "7" - not only will it slow you down, but odds are, it'll also make you f' a few things up. And since they're a relatively inexpensive business expense, it's always seemed easier to just buy new.

This year, however, I will be taking my shears over to Hancock Fabric and dropping them off for the guy who comes in and sharpens the scissors. He stops by once a month and sets up shop right in the middle of the store, where he spends the entire day honing and filing cutting tools for the old, the cheap, and the eco-friendly. Oh look -- I fall into all three categories now! :-)


One pair of scissors and the packaging and shipping associated with buying new. Oh, and $12 - the cost difference between buying and sharpening.

Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5

I'll have to call the store to find out what day Mr. Sharpie will be there but that's the only additional step required. All in all, another very easy change to make.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Day 136 - Rakin' It In

Trading In the Leafblower for a Rake

I've talked about our itty-bitty yard before, but have I ever mentioned the WORLD'S LARGEST OAK tree that sits in the middle of it? This sucker's so old, it's gotta be pushin' 100 and it drops more nuts than a high-rise asylum caught in a 7.8 richter. In addition to the copious amounts of acorns, it also drops tons and tons and tons of leaves. I mean a WHOLE LOT of 'em.

Last year, being the good wife but bad environmentalist that I was, I bought hubby a nice, heavy-duty leaf blower. Because nothing motivates a man to do yardwork like a machine that requires ear protection.

Guess what is now taboo at our house. Yep. Guess who tabbood it. Yep. So now guess who's in charge of cleaning up the leaves. Yep. Sucks to be me.

Yesterday, I took the kids out front and attempted to rake the easy part of the yard. This is how it went down:

2:00 - Raking Commences
2:05 - Daphne has to go "boopie"
2:10 - Raking Re-commences
2:15 - Ethan wants his cup of water
2:20 - Raking Re-re-commences
2:25 - Yell at the kids to stay away from the road
2:30 - Tell Ethan to stop rubbing leaves on his face to see if they are poison ivy
2:35 - Tell Ethan to stop rubbing leaves on his sister to see if they are poison ivy
2:36 - Resist urge to tie children to tree while I rake

And so it continued ad nauseum until I smartened up and got them each their very own broom and told them to sweep the driveway. Which they kind of did. The three of us had the front yard raked in just under 90 minutes. Alone, it would have taken about 30.

But it got done. And you know what? Despite the mild case of toddler-induced frustration, I actually enjoyed it. The smell of the crisp, fall air, the crunchy noise of the leaves, the light workout and, of course, the fun of jumping with the kids into the leaf pile. The best part? No long-lasting effects of ear damage - unless you count the piercing squeals of delight from the kids.


Let's say it takes me roughly four hours to do the whole yard with the electric leaf blower. That equates to roughly 5 kWh, not a huge amount, but keep in mind that I would probably have to do this three times per season, for a total of 15 kWh. I could walk down the road right now and point out at least ten leaf-blowin' neighbors. If we all just put down our noisy machines and picked up a rake, we could save 150 kWh. And an assload of noise pollution.

Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5

No doubt, it requires more physical energy to rake leaves than it does to blow them away. However, I could always just pay the kid down the street a few sheckles to rake the yard if I was unable to do the work myself. But let's face it, I could definitely use the extra workout. Besides, I can't wait to rake a huge pile out back, right at the bottom of the slide. WHEEEEEEEE!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Day 135 - Either A Borrower Or A Lender Be

Doing What I Tell My Kids To Do: Sharing

There's been a lot of discussion in my Compact Group recently about the importance of sharing. We all know that it's the nice thing to do, the neighborly thing to do, but rarely do we think of it as the ecological thing to do. But it is.

Think about all the items in your home that are used so infrequently that you might not miss them if they were gone for a week, a month or even a season. From weed-whackers to rakes, sports gear to power tools, we all have items we don't use on a regular basis. All of these possessions you have stowed away in the attic, basement or garage may be of use to your neighbor or friend. Why not let them borrow instead of buying?

Just as there are HUGE eco-savings to be had when buying used products, borrowing leaves a nary an ecological toeprint. Savings from borrowing include: the resources required to manufacture the product, all the packaging associated with buying new, the transportation required to ship the product to the store, the cost of keeping the store open, lit and heated, etc. All of this disappears when we share with our neighbors instead of buying our own item from BigBoxMart.

I'll be the first to admit, I'm not always the best when it comes to sharing. Somewhere along the line, I became... well, possessive of my possessions. I worry that if I were to lend something out, it might get damaged or lost. A valid fear, some may say.

Well, as you all know, I don't ever post about something I'm not actually willing to try and so I've given this 'sharing' issue quite a bit of thought. I've decided that if I'm going to really embarce sharing, I'll need to adopt a new way of looking at my possessions. Here's what I've come up with:

Products are not people. People count. Products don't.

Not very catchy and it doesn't rhyme, but it does remind me of where my priorities lie. How sad is it that I need be reminded of such things anyhow? Shouldn't that be an inherent human truth? That stuff is just stuff and if it were all gone tomorrow and all I had left were family and friends, I would still be ok.

Wow, pretty philosophical post today. I must have loaned out my sarcasm. Hopefully it'll be returned to me in time for tomorrow's post.



Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5

Lending out my possessions will be easy. I have a four year old son and a two year old daughter. My house is at maximum capacity of people who don't share well. And I simply do not need to be one of them.

Borrowing, on the other hand, will be slightly more difficult. Why does it take a bit of pride-swallowing to ask your neighbor if you can use his seed spreader? Is there some weird human chromosome that makes not having your own seed spreader seem like a personal inadequacy? Do we really think our neighbors stand around and gossip about it?

Pssst: Did you hear? That freaky eco-chick doesn't have a seed
spreader. What the hell is wrong
with her?... And what's with her hair?

Ah, it seems my sarcasm has already been returned. See? Sharing really does work!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Day 134 - I'm Gonna Wash That Sodium Laureth Sulfate Right Out of My Hair

Switching to a Naturally-Derived Shampoo

I think this may actually be the last chemically-infused product in my bathroom and I'm so glad I'm finally done with it! It took me a long time to use up the last of my Redken shampoo, but it's finally all gone and I can now switch to a more environmentally-friendly alternative.

I'm not quite ready to go the homemade baking soda shampoo route, but am very excited to be switching over to another product from my new best friend: Burt, of Burt's Bees. I know, I know - BB was recently brought out by the nice folks who bring you Clorox Poison Bleach, but until you can find me a better smelling solution than BB's Very Volumizing Pomegranate, I'm sticking with it.

As with the kids' baby wash, the BB shampoo is Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate Free, Paraben Free and Phthalate Free. Although made of plastic, the bottle contains 80% post-consumer content. And, according to the label, the shampoo is not tested on animals (I'm assuming the bottle isn't either ;-).

For you hard-core plastic avoiders, Burt's Bees does make a shampoo bar, which is sold in a cardboard box. I would have picked that up to try but didn't even know it existed until I did an online search, which was after I had purchased my bottled version. If I can find a shampoo bar locally, I'll give it a try. "Shampoo Bar" -- sounds like a salon that serves drafts, doesn't it? Someone should open one. I would definitely go there. Even a drunk stylist couldn't give me a worse haircut than I already have and I'd probably tip better if I was sloshed.


Mrs. Pigpen is now down to washing her hair only four days per week. Eek. When I write it out in black and white it makes me sound gross. But really, I'm not. Or rather, I am, but not because of my hair.

So anyhow, that's about 1 teaspoon of chemical goopiness avoided per day, about 3 ounce per month, 36 ounces per year. Join me, and we'll make it 72.

Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5

Redken. Burt's Bees. As long as it gets the dirt out, I don't care about the brand name. What I do care about is the consequence of its use.

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.


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?


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.


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.