Saturday, September 29, 2007

Day Eighty-Four - Where Am I?

Learn World Geography

Every day I learn something new. Some days, all I learn is just how ignorant I am. Like yesterday. And the day before that. And Tuesday. And last week....

One of the things I've always been bad at is world geography. I don't know why. I can put most of the states in their proper places on Ethan's United States Puzzle, but beyond that, I'm an absolute moron. I'm definitely not one of the 3% of Americans who can point to Kobul on a map. But what does any of this have to do with the environment? Lots.

According to American Economic Alert, the 2007 to-date national trade deficit is roughly $540 BILLION. That number increases approximately $60,000,000 per month. Americans buy tons and tons of imported goods every year - literally. I won't get into the effect this has on the economy (but did you check out the fun Jib-Jab cartoon I posted?) because I'm certainly no expert, besides, I'm here to focus on the environmental impact of it all. An article from Environmental Health Perspectives gives the following "standard distribution path" of a toy doll:

A $9.97 doll is made in Asia by low-wage workers under conditions that may
subject them to a myriad of unregulated hazards. This doll is packed with 10,000
others into a container and loaded onto a marine vessel holding 4,000 other
containers carrying dolls, shoes, and electronics. Fueled by low-quality bunker
fuel, the ship leaves one of the world’s largest ports in Asia, chugs across the
Pacific, discharging nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, particulates, and other
pollutants into the earth’s environment. Arriving at the Southern California
ports of Los Angeles or Long Beach (where 40% of all U.S. imports arrive), the
container is unloaded by longshore workers, who breathe exhaust from the
idling ship as well as emissions from a row of idling trucks with drivers
waiting for their loads. For the next leg of the trip, the doll may be placed on
a big-rig truck and sent for repackaging to a mega-warehouse 50 miles from the
ports, an area that was formerly all dairy lands that has now given way to
million-square-foot warehouses for consumer goods (drawing thousands of diesel
trucks a day into formerly rural communities). Finally, the doll is trucked to
her destination, a big-box retailer in suburban Chicago. By this time, she has
traveled more than 8,000 miles—on diesel-burning conveyances the whole way.

So you see, just like eating locally grown produce and buying local fish, it's important to buy consumer goods that are produced "locally" as well. Unfortunately, due to the nature of manufacturing, "local" consumer goods won't likely be found in a 100-mile radius. This is where my ignorance of geography becomes important. Case in point:

I had to go to Target a couple weeks ago to pick up some miscellaneous clothing items for the kids, that I wasn't able to find second-hand. (Have I mentioned just how hard Compacting is?!?!). Anyhow, my choices for Ethan's clothing included items made in: India, Egypt, Vietnam, Philippines, China or Indonesia. Now without peeking, which is closest to the US and therefore uses less fuel to get here? Am I the only one who has no idea? In my mind, this is what I came up with:

Anyone who wants to keep their image of me as a semi-intelligent human being, please stop reading here!

  • I'm 99% sure India is in the Middle East.
  • Egypt is somewhere in the top part of Africa (notice the word "northern" never came to mind...)
  • Vietnam is in the Pacific, but not Hawaii-type Pacific, ya know?
  • The Philippines, Hmm.... not really sure.. I think they were affected by that tsunami a few years ago... now where was that?
  • China is what cartoon characters hit when they dig straight through the earth and come out the other side, so it's the farthest.
  • Indonesia sounds a little like "India", but also has an Asian flair, so I'll go with "somewhere between India and Asia"... but I think they also got hit with that tsunami. Where was that damn thing?

Yes, folks, I am really that dumb. Sadly, I bet I'm STILL on par with your Average American in terms of geographical knowledge. So I've come to realize once again, that to make better decisions, I need to be a more knowledgeable consumer. MUCH more knowledgeable.

I know, I know -- I didn't even touch on the fact that I should also learn about each country's environmental laws, whether the employees are treated fairly, the country's stance on the Kyoto Treaty, and all sorts of other things, but my tiny brain can only work on one thing at a time, and honestly, geography actually seems like the least daunting of those tasks.


Damn near unquantifiable. I guess that if nothing else, the thought of having to learn all that geography has strengthened my resolve to search for second-hand goods, thereby eliminating the need for thought entirely. :-) And pre-used goods are always a better choice for the environment.

Difficulty Level: 4 out of 5

Again, geography is NOT a strong suit of mine. My first choice will definitely be to buy second-hand so that I don't have to worry about determining the distance to the country of origin. My second choice, as the daughter of a card-carrying AFL-CIO member will, of course, be to look for the MADE IN THE USA tag. Regardless, before I buy anymore consumer goods, I'll pull up Google maps of each continent and see if I can figure out where the hell I am in relation to the rest of the world. And I'll definitely add "Used World Globe" to my Christmas Wish List. :-)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Day Eighty-Three - That's a Crock

Using the Crockpot Instead of the Oven

I'm making ribs today (pork ones, of course -- no beef!). Now, I'm not the world's greatest chef or anything, but I do ok in the kitchen. Nearly every night there's a nutritous, home-cooked meal on the table, all prepared by yours truly. I used to really enjoy cooking but now that I'm working three afternoons a week, Daphne has given up her afternoon nap, and 5 pm is either fightin', whinin' or racin' time at my house, I look for whatever shortcuts I can take.

One of my favorite shortcuts is the crockpot. In fact, I love it so much that I own two of them. Super-consumeristic, I know, but one is for really big dinners and the other for smaller dishes -plus I bought them before the Compact.

But back to the ribs. Normally, I would wrap them in aluminum foil, toss them in the oven at 300 for two hours, then throw them on the grill for a nice, crispy finish. Today I am trying something new. I cut the long set of ribs into five smaller sections and threw them in the crockpot on HIGH where they will sit for 5 hours. Then I'll pull 'em out and toss them on the grill. What's the big difference? I thought you'd never ask.

Well, besides the fact that I'm saving a 2 foot length of aluminum foil (which ends up so food-encrusted that it can't be recycled), I'm saving oodles of electricity. Using my super-geeky-cool Kill-A-Watt device, I discovered that my large crockpot, when set on high, draws 260 watts. Compare this with my oven which has a kW rating of 8.7 (that's 8700 watts). So even though I'm more than doubling the amount of time spent cooking, I'm greatly reducing the energy required to do so.


Oven - 8700 watts x .001 x 2 hours = 17.4 kWh
Crock - 260 watts x .001 x 5 hours = 1.3 kWh

Pretty simple to see that using the crock is saving me over 16 kWh. If I can use the crock once a week, instead of the oven, I'll be saving 64 kWh a month -- 832 kWh per year. That's another $8.32 :-) Who says "going green" is expensive? Most of my changes save me money. Maybe I should rename the blog "going cheap". Would you still read?

Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5
I already own two cookbooks devoted to crockpot cooking so I should be set on recipes for at least a full year, maybe more. Plus, it really cuts down on the late afternoon craziness around here. I've even heard tell of a clever woman who makes her crockpot dishes the evening before and stores them in the fridge overnight -- thereby eliminating all the chopping and mixing work the next day, while simultaneously guilting her hubby into giving the kids their baths while she is "working on supper". Wow, she sounds really smart, doesn't she? ;-)

Day Eighty-Two - Another Bright Idea

Switching From Incandescents to Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs

It's funny how so many things, on the surface, seem so obviously eco-friendly but upon further inspection, turn out to be questionable. Take for instance, the Incandescent Bulb vs. the CFL. Everyone and I mean EVERYONE touts the energy-efficiency of CFL's. By God, if we would all just switch one measly bulb from an incandescent to a CFL it would save the universe. Really? Would it?

There is a down side to CFLs that most folks don't know about. CFLs contain approximately 4mg - 5 mg of mercury per bulb. Mercury can cause many problems when inhaled, and can affect our brains, spinal cords, kidneys and livers. Due to their toxic nature, CFL's require special handling. To dispose of them properly you need to seal them in a plastic bag and take them to a recycler that handles hazardous household waste. If recycling is not possible, then you should seal the bulb in a plastic bag and place it in with the regular trash. So for every bulb that dies, you need to enshrine it forever in plastic and hope that the plastic doesn't break and release the mercury -- that doesn't sound good for the environment, does it?

As I've posted before, I really have no clue what is the right thing to do. I'd love to switch all my bulbs to LED lightbulbs, which are energy efficent and mercury-free, but who can afford a $75 bulb? Not I.

However, since this blog is all about the changes I'm making (whether right or wrong), I should tell you that I have been switching to CFLs. In fact, I've been switching bulbs for almost a year now. It started as a way to save money on the electric bill, but is now more about the energy savings. I currently have installed in my house: 16 CFL bulbs; 30 regular bulbs; and 21 "odd" bulbs (those little candelabra ones, the big globe ones, some flood lights, etc.). As each regular bulb burns out, it is replaced with a CFL.

Am I doing the right thing? I've no clue. It all depends on whose research you read. On the one hand, they definitely save electricity, but if my energy comes from a renewable source, does that even matter? I've already broken one bulb and it freaked me out -- thinking about mercury vapors floating around in my house. I guess there is no perfect solution. If we want to be able to see at night and we're not willing to light candles to do so, we have to choose the best option we can afford.

I've never claimed to have all the answers. Hell, half the time I don't even understand the question. But you do the best you have with information you've got. Kind of like life in general.


Each regular lightbulb is 60 watts. The replacement CFLs are 18 watts. For each bulb changed, I save 42 watts. Assuming each light is on an average of 2 hours per day, that's over 30 kWh saved per bulb, per year. I've already switched 16 bulbs, so I guess I'm already saving 490 kWh. When I finish converting all 46 bulbs, I'll be saving 1410 kWh each year, compared to incandescent bulbs. Pretty substantial stuff.

Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5

The hardest part of this task is deciding whether it is, indeed, the best environmental choice. I'm still not 100% convinced, but I'm obviously a little convinced, because I'm doing it. So I guess once you decide if it's the right choice for you, then it's as easy as changing a light bulb. (Even in the dim light, you had to see that one coming...)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Day Eighty-One - The Lunch Box

Packing Snacks for Preschool

Well it's been three weeks now that the kids have been in preschool and we're all finally getting into the swing of things. Ethan likes his teacher (despite the fact that she asks him to pick up after himself) and Daphne has stopped trying to physically latch herself to me neck like a baby spider monkey when I drop her off (sort of). So now that I have some time to think about the morning snacks I throw in their bag, I realize I've got serious room for improvement.

Let's start with the fact that the school does not allow raisins, grapes, peanuts or anything that slightly resembles a circular or oval shape, due to choking concerns. Valid point. But, they also don't allow fresh fruit, unless it has been all peeled & cut up ahead of time. Yuck. Who wants brown apple slices for snack? So we're left with packaged foods.

Unfortunately, so many of these foods come in those oh-so-easy-to-buy-and-pack single servings, which really should be off limits to me, since I did my post on Size Really Does Matter. So that means no more over-packaged, single serve Goldfish, Cheese & Crackers, or Cheez-Its. (This is where we all feel bad for Ethan who loves ANYTHING that comes in a single serving bag. I swear the kid would eat dog crap if it was packaged in a small, shiny bag -- possibly two bags' worth if the bag featured Spiderman on the front.)

So then I'm left with the dilemma of whether or not I should pack the kids' snacks in Ziplocks or not. Sure, I'm able to buy the big box of Cheez-Its at Costco, but then I'm just re-packaging it in another plastic bag that, unfortunately, the teacher tosses in the trash after snack time. Just doesn't seem to make sense to me.

So, once again, I found myself needing a new solution to an old problem.

MUST..... FIGHT.... URGE.... TO... BUY.... NEW..... TUPPERWARE....

So, without breaking my compact, I rooted around in the cabinets and found a bunch of old Gerber baby-food bowls that have fitted lids. They are the perfect size for snacks! Also, since the tops are clear, I was able to write each of their names on the lids with a Sharpie, thus eliminating the need to put a name sticker on them each day. Super Score!


Ethan goes 4 days per week and Daphne goes 2 days per week. Prior to this journey, I would totally have stocked up on single-serving packages of animal crackers, Cheez-Its, Goldfish and all those other toddler-friendly foods. Now I will be serving all bulk-packaged purchases (or brown fruit) in reusable containers. That's six snack food packages I'll be avoiding per week. The kids attend school 36 weeks per year, so I'm saving 216 plastic packages during that time. That's GOT TO be at least a couple chock-full grocery bags worth, don't you think?

Not to mention the fact that you definitely pay a premium to purchase that kind of convenience. I bet by cutting out the single servings, I'll be saving a few sheckles at the grocery store as well.

Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5

Just another habit that needs changing. It's funny, but I never noticed that an entire half aisle at the store is dedicated to "single serve" packaged foods. Wow. That doesn't even include all the breakfast items that are with cereals, or the pudding cups kept with the baking stuff. I don't deny that it is all very convenient to use, but it comes at quite a price, literally and figuratively.

Now if one of you could point me in the direction of a no-fail granola bar recipe, I'll be all set...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Supplemental Post - Buying Local

Someone on my Compact group posted this link as a reminder to us all that buying local goods is more than just eco-friendly, it's eco-nomy friendly.... enjoy

Day Eighty - Stand Up and Be Counted

Register to Vote / Update Voter Registration

Just like the lottery, when it comes to voting for our elected officials, "you gotta be in it to win it". Many states, like mine, require that you register to vote one month prior to the election. Since elections will be held this year on Tuesday, November 6, 2007, that means it's show time. We've all got until October 6, 2007 to make sure our registrations are current and valid for the jurisdiction where we live.

If you've never registered before and need help, here's a great link presented by to help you get started. It lists every state's voter laws and registration deadlines. It even gives you links directly to the states' election websites. If you've moved during the last 12 months (like me), be sure to go and update your voter registration NOW. Don't wait until November when you might end up being that poor, disenfranchised democrat that makes the nightly news. (Of course, you can ALWAYS fill out a provisional ballot, if any questions arise as to your true jurisdiction or registration).

Now I know these local races aren't nearly as exciting as the "Big Race" coming in 2008. However, the local legislative bodies are routinely faced with environmental issues that will affect your life daily. Take the next month to research the candidates whose names will appear on your ballots. Familiarize yourself with their track record, when available, or at least with their stance on environmental policies. If it all looks like jibbertygooblepuff, drop the candidate an email and ask some point-blank questions on issues like commercial development, protected watersheds, public land use... whatever you feel is most important.

There is simply NO EXCUSE for not voting. All the personal water conservation, recycling efforts, volunteering, composting and blogging doesn't mean a damn thing if we don't back it up at the polls. This is just a gentle reminder to everyone that if you don't vote, your license to bitch about policies, big and small, will be immediately revoked.

So, we've got about ten days to make sure our collective ducks are in a row. Pull out your wallet right now while you're thinking about it, and make sure you're voter registration card is in there. If not, now is the time to do something about it.

I'm serious, get off your ass, step away from the computer and check. I'll wait....


Thank you. You're a Rock Star! See you at the polls! :-)


Possibly the planet, or at least your little corner of it.

Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5

It's only a "2" if this is your first time registering, and that's only because some states want you to register at the DMV, which is like being sentenced to three hours in HELL. However, most states let you do it all online or via mail, so for the majority of folks, it's no big sweat.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Day Seventy-Nine - No Plastic This Week

Live Simply So Others Can Simply Live

A very well-known eco-blogger, Crunchy Chicken, was hit hard this week with the tragic news that her husband has been diagnosed with an incurable form of blood cancer. In her Sunday post she questioned how one can balance their personal ethics with environmentalism. You see, she and her family have worked very diligently to reduce their plastic consumption this year and she is now being faced with having her husband hospitalized and being treated with copious amounts of plastic tubing, disposable gloves, bags of IV, etc.

She feels that "because I do so much more that I think, for chrissakes, I've earned a little extra plastic consumption for a while". I agree wholeheartedly. Plastic is not all evil gloom and doom, it can serve some very useful purposes. It's the little plastic toys, grocery bags, ziplocs, diapers and other disposables that need to be cut -- not lifesaving equipment.

So, in a show of solidarity for Crunchy Chicken, many of her readers have suggested that we all do a little extra right now, to offset her husbands' very LEGITIMATE and NECESSARY use of plastic. Therefore, I will be refraining from purchasing anything plastic this week. Maybe you could too. Who knows, we might all discover a number of things we can live without.

Hang in there, Crunchy Chicken. 'Burbanmom will be thinking of you and your family...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Day Seventy-Eight - Good To The Last Drop

Using a Coffee Carafe To Keep My Java Hot

I have been plugging EVERYTHING in my house into my fabulous, geek-o-rific Kill-A-Watt device and am learning all sorts of unexpected lessons. For instance, one of the biggest energy hogs in my house is my Mr. Coffee! When it's just sitting there displaying the time, the thing barely draws any energy -- in fact it doesn't even register a watt. However, when it is brewing or just keeping the hot plate on (which it does for at least two hours each day), it cycles itself on and off at about 900 watts. YIKES!

This one is such an easy fix, though, and it doesn't even require me to break my compact. When the coffee is done brewing, I simply pour it into my already-got-one-so-I-don't-need-to-buy-one coffee carafe. How cool is that? So now I only run the coffee pot for 10 minutes and then that sucker gets turned off! Bonus? The last cup doesn't have that "burnt" taste that requires an extra-heavy helping of sugar and cream.


The heating element cycles on and off at whate seems to be 1 minute intervals. When on, it is drawing approximately 900 watts, or .9 kWh. So, one hour per day, every single day equates to 27 kWh a month, 324 kWh per year (which, by the way, is about $32.40 in dollar-savings). HAHA! Paid for the Kill-A-Watt and then some!

Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5

Alread owned the carafe, just blew the dust off it and set it on the counter. Life just doesn't get any easier than that, does it?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Supplemental Post - Taking Time Off

Good Grief, AGAIN?

Uma is coming back into town tonight to play with the kids while hubby and I spend some QT together to celebrate our Anniversary. That means no computers for me and no work for him! I'll be back online Monday. In the meantime, won't you join me and the rest of the world in going Car-Free this Saturday?

Have a good one...

- Erin

Day Seventy-Seven - Makeup Exam

Re-evaluating The Products I Put on My Face

OK, I know that yesterday I said I was going to stay on the topic of water conservation, but I have the attention span of a gnat and something has since trasnpired that I feel the need to blog about. This week, I broke my compact, again, and went shopping. With the fall weather in the air, I was feeling all renewed and thought I'd replace my soft pink, at-the-beach lipstick with a darker, I'm-in-the-mood-for-a-pumpkin-latte shade. So off to Target I went....

I checked out the different colors Neutrogena offered, since I recently started using their face bar in my toned-down morning routine and really like that product. Being blessed with mayonnaise-white Irish skin, I thought maybe a darker shade would make me look less Casper-like. So I tossed my new "Ruby Bliss" in the cart and checked out, happy with my purchase.

The next day I was excited to see how the new 'stick looked and slapped some on in the morning before taking the kids to preschool. I got an interesting "tingling" sensation when I applied it, but didn't give it too much thought. By noon, my lips were very chapped and had a puffy look to them. Not a pouty, "hey, you look like Angeline Jolie" look; more of a "perhaps you should seek medical attention" look. When I got home, I checked the ingredients on my Ruby Bliss. Here they are:

Active Ingredients: Octinoxate 7.5%, Titanium Dioxide 1.1%

Inactive Ingredients: Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Bis-Diglyceryl Polyacyladipate-2, Phenyl Trimethicone, Petrolatum, Polyester-4, Polyethylene, Caregin, C10-30 Cholesterol/Lanosterol Esters, Carnuba (Copernicia Cerifera) Wax, Menthyl Lactate, Stearoylinulin, Flavor, Tocopheryl Acetate, Tocopherol, BHT, Sodium Saccharin, Alumina, Dimethicone, Polyglyceryl-2, Triisostearate, Methylparaben.

May Contain: Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides, Red 6, Red 7 Lake, Red 6 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake, Red 36, Red 33 Lake, Red 27 lake, Red 20 Lake, Blue 1 Lake, Red 30.

Ahhh, nothing like a litle Bis-Diglyceryl Polyacyladipate-2 to make a gal feel sexy. I feel pretty, oh so pretty...

I guess I could start with the fact that petrolatum has already been banned by the European Union for use in cosmetics. I could also tell you that studies have shown polyethylene can cause abnormalities in the brain development of mice. Maybe then I could then mention that a large number of those other poly-named chemicals are petroleum-based. OK, let's stop now, before it gets really scary.

Now, I'm not one of those people who is afraid to get any chemicals on myself, for fear of poisoning my body. I'm sure I did a fine job of poisoning it when I voluntarily smoked cigarettes for fifteen years. But come on, I put this shit on my face! Right on my big, fat lips! I probably end up swallowing most of it, unless I spend the day kissing hubby and kids, in which case, I'm getting it all over them! Ugh. Is nothing sacred anymore?

And then I got to thinking, as I tend to do these days, about what kind of impact the makeup industry has on our environment. I guess my concern is, what kind of waste is generated at the lipstick factory where Dr. Jekyll is concocting the latest batch of Ruby Bliss? How much of these fun chemicals end up as waste - in our landfills, or, worse yet, in our water? Is there some poor lobster out there who now is suffering from chapped, puffy lips, just so us ladies can look purdy? Do lobsters even have lips?

Fortunately for me and my white-as-bedsheet, rosacea-riddled skin, there are alternatives. Due to an increase in demand, a number of environmentally friendly cosmetic companies are popping up. These companies use all-natural, organic compounds in there formulas and, as an added bonus, most do not test their formulas on animals - and none of them test on lobsters.

Unfortunately, my budget does not allow me to run out and replace all of my cosmetics right this very minute. However, as I run out of each item, I will be replacing it with an all-natural alternative. Hopefully by then, the swelling will be down....


I'll eliminate the demand I would otherwise create for chemical-infused-poly-techno-carcinogenriffic-face-paint and instead use my dollar to vote for the more ecologically friendly products. Who knows, maybe all-natural makeup is just what I need to eliminate the rosacea? Only time will tell.

Difficulty Level 2 out of 5

Most of these products are not currently found on the shelves of CVS and Target, so I will need to buy them online. Not a big deal for me, though, as I'm a big fan of online shopping. :-) The only downside is that it's difficult to get an accurate representation of color on a computer screen, so selecting the right shade might be hit or miss. I will definitely update you all on how this works out! Would also LOVE to hear from any of you who use these eco-products.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Day Seventy-Six - Gone To The Dogs

Repurposing All Our "Stale" Water

Continuing on my water conservation kick here, folks. Going to see if I can keep it up all week. Let's start with some 411. We've got a dog -- a big girl, weighing in at just under 100 pounds -- our black lab/husky mix "Oreo" goes through about three bowls of water per day. Each dish of water holds 4 cups of water, so that's .75 gallons of water per day, 5.25 gallons per week, 273 gallons per year. Now before you get on the phone to PETA because you think I'm going to stop watering the dog, just listen.

Every day, the kids and I fill up our reusable water bottles and head out on our merry way. They are usually refilled a couple times throughout the day and are taken to bed at night. Hubby also drinks water in the evenings and he usually leaves his half-full glass on the coffee table, where it leaves a nice white ring. So by the next morning I have four water cups with varying amounts of "stale water" in them. Of course, with our super-high American standards, there's no way we'd drink the stale water, so it gets dumped down the drain. Until today.

Fortunately for us, Oreo has much lower standards than we do. I mean seriously lower. I saw her eat dirt yesterday. Not because she was hungry, just because it was there and looked like it might be tasty. Anyhow, she now is the lucky recipient of all our stale water. She will also be receiving all the crazy ice cubes that leap forth from the ice dispenser, in what appears to be a last ditch effort to escape the inevitable.

All this water adds up too. It fills her bowl to the brim at least once, usually with enough left over to water the three houseplants I have somehow managed not to kill yet. This then cuts her bowl refilling by 1/3, reducing her total "new" water consumption to a half a gallon per day.


Simply put: .25 gallons per day, 1.75 gallons per week, 7.5 gallons a month, 91 gallons per year. Good Doggy! If all 73 million American dog owners did that, we'd save over 6.5 BILLION gallons a year.

Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5

Much easier than cleaning those white rings off the coffee table...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Supplemental Post - Another Site of Interest

Wow, I must be surfing a lot!

This is a great online quiz presented by American Public Media (the people that bring you NPR) that shows you how many "Earths" of natural resources it would take to sustain all 6.6 billion humans… if everyone lived like you. It shows a "picture" of how earth looks based on your lifestyle too -- I think I got coal plants spewing in the background, just from living in Virginia. Hmmmm.... Apparently, as a whole, they don't take global warming too seriously here. A state where gay marriage is illegal but recycling is a personal choice - anyone else see a problem with those legislative priorities? I guess they're more concerned about burning in the hereafter, than here on earth. But that's a whole other rant...

My final result? I'm embarrassed to tell you that if everyone lived like me, we'd need 3.8 earths to sustain the lifestyle! And this is AFTER all my greening efforts to date! Imagine what it was like before I started this journey! The neat thing is, though, that in addition to getting to see my usage in bar graphs (inner-geek), I got to see the areas of my lifestyle that really need improving. I was surprised to see that "food" was one of my worst categories. Please don't take away my coffee... I have children, for God's sake!

Anyhow, here's the link.

Day Seventy-Five - Scrub-A-Dub-Dub

Closing the Drain Before Starting the Water

I must be in the mood for water conservation this week, cuz I've instituted another "water change". Starting today, when bathing the kids (or me, for that matter), I will no longer perch on the edge of the tub, watching the water shoot out full blast -- straight down the drain -- whilst I wait for it to reach the optimum bathing temperature. Why do I do that anyway? I'm just going to keep sitting there swishing the water around with my hand until I have "evened out" any water temperature discrepancies before putting the kids in (Good God, man, how anal am I?!?!).
I timed it today and it takes nearly two full minutes for the hot water to travel from the garage up to the kids' bath. During that time, approximately five gallons of A-1 super-clean water go right down the drain. What a waste! Not anymore. Starting today, there will be no pre-warming of the bathwater. It is what it is and if I'll just add more hot to even it out - not exactly rocket science, is it? And yet, a lot of folks do it. Supposedly "green folks", just like me.


The kids take about three baths a week. They bathe together, except for "shampoo night" when they get to bathe seperately, but we don't drain the tub between baths. Me? I take a bath maybe once a month. Note to first time readers -- I do SHOWER daily, though... except for To Hell With Personal Hygiene Days. Hubby doesn't "do" baths... something about "sitting in a tepid pool of his own filth"... So, let's call it 15 baths a month, times 5 gallons per bath - that's 75 gallons a month, 900 gallons per year - over one full ccf.

Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5

Again, like so many other changes, this takes zero effort, just a new way of doing things.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Supplemental Post - Site of Interest...

Or At Least, A Site of Amusement...

I thought some of you might get a kick out of this site. Someone posted it on my Compact group and it presents the argument against carbon-offsetting in a very amusing manner.

Enjoy! :-)

Day Seventy-Four - 90% Rules

Taking On A Challenge I Don't Think I Can Meet

Even though I've decreased the amount of time my laptop is plugged in, I still manage to find time to search out interesting eco-blogs and other like-minded folks online. One that I stumbled across this week was the Riot for Austerity which offers an interesting challenge to those of us who are attempting to reduce our ecological impact. It asks those who sign up to reduce their emissions to 90% of what the Average American uses, within one year.

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 and they are:

1. Gasoline
2. Electricity
3. Heating and Cooking Energy
4. Garbage
5. Water
6. Consumer Goods
7. Food

There are, of course, 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. Now, I know that I most likely will not be able to hit the 90% goal in any, much less all, seven categories, which, according to Austerity Rules, would put me on par with the emissions of a Chinese Peasant. However, I am going to try my damndest to see just how low I can go.

Why take on a challenge that I'm pretty sure I cannot meet? Because by striving to achieve the impossible, I will no doubt reach further than I would have, had I been grasping for a lesser goal.

So, what do you think? You up for it? Are you "in the game"? Think you can do it? Huh? Huh? HUH? To quote GOB Bluth "CO-CA-CAW! CO-CA-CAW! CO-CA-CAW!" (Note to Readers: If you're not familiar with Arrested Development, here is where you would picture someone doing a very poor "chicken" dance).

Well, if nothing else, check out the rules to see what the average American uses and compare it with your current usage. Are you doing your part to lower those averages or are you a consumer whose consumption bumps them up?


Well, duh, 90% -- if I can do it! Less if I fail. But here's the cool part: even if I fail the challenge, I still succeed at reducing those averages! :-) Besides, it's not like they can flunk me and I'll get kicked off the planet.... can they?

Difficulty Level 5 out of 5

This will be the biggest challenge I will undertake and it will take me a full 365 days to find out if I have succeeded. It is basically the culmination of all the changes I've made, and have yet to make. But now it's more like a competition -- which makes it even more fun! I'm already on Day 74 and I know I've made a dent already, I guess we'll find out some time next summer how I measure up.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Day Seventy-Three - Muey Go-Go

Heating Water in the Microwave Instead of Running the Tap

This post contains information that will make you think I'm a bad mom (as if some of the other posts don't?). If you believe that all toddlers should be fed nothing but fruits, vegetables and free-range poultry while drinking their soy milk in a non-plastic container -- stop reading now! Also, get some kids of your own to mess up, as mine are taken.

It has been said that children crave stability and schedules in their lives. It helps them to feel secure with their surroundings, thereby allowing them to grow up to become stable, well-adjusted and healthy individuals. That's why day in and day out, each morning when my kids wake up I mix them up a nice hot cup of sugar-laden instant cocoa. It's become a tradition and I'll be damned if I'm going to jeopardize their budding senses of self-worth by messing with this routine.

However, I am starting to see the dark side of this little tradition and it is - water waste. It takes exactly 18 cups worth of full-blast tap-running before the water turns hot enough for their cocoa. That's over one full gallon of water, just to get the two cups required for the cocoa.

The solution should be simple - just put the water in their little Playtex sippy cups, pop 'em in the nuker and voila! hot cocoa. However, due to all the concerns regarding pthalates and BPA leeching, I no longer put anything plastic in the microwave.

Being your average Super-Consumeristic American, my mind immediately leapt to "I should buy some sort of vessel to heat the water in that has a spout for pouring - A 'Water Holder Heating Substitute', if you will. I wonder if they'd have one at Target...". But I decided I didn't want to break my compact (AGAIN) so I scrounged in my cupboards for such a strange item. Wouldn't you know, I found two perfectly good "Water Holder Heating Substitutes". One is my Pyrex glass measuring cup that holds two cups of water. The other is our ceramic gravy boat (which is so big it's more like a gravy cruise ship) that holds about two and a half cups.

So now armed with my new 'WHHS', I'm all set to whip up another round of my famous "Swiss Miss" sugar-fest any time my 2-year old asks me for "Muey Go-Go". And I won't drain the lake while I'm doing it.


I'm SUCH a bad mom, that the kids often have seconds of my morning health drink. So I'd say they average 1.3 cocoas per day. That's over nine cocoa making sessions per week, for a total of 11.375 gallons of water wasted! In just one year, that's over 591 gallons of water wasted per year!! Egads!

Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5

Super-easy. No complaints -- from me OR the kids!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Day Seventy-Two - ReStore-ing Faith in Humanity

Donating to and Buying From The Habitat ReStore

Our home is definitely a "DIY" kind of household. Hubby is a PM with a good-sized construction company and I've always had a "well how hard can it be?" attitude when it comes to home improvements. We own every hand and power tool known to man, and have duplicates of most. In fact, we even built a house - literally - in 2001, when we didn't feel like getting "real jobs" and decided start a residential home design/build business. So, needless to say, when it comes to ripping out walls, replacing tiles or installing new flooring, we almost never call a professional.

When we relocated to Richmond two years ago, we were lucky to find an affordable lease on a large house in a newer subdivision. The housing market was ballooning so quickly, though, that we immediately started looking for a house to buy -- before we could no longer afford it. Coming from Upstate New York where your average house costs $125,000, we experienced quite a bit of sticker shock when we found that houses in our neighborhood were selling for over $400,000. There was no way we could afford that kind of a mortgage, so we looked for something smaller, with a much smaller price tag.

Within a few months we had settled on a particular development that we liked. Great schools, walking trails, playgrounds and a small lake. We looked at a number of houses and finally picked one in a great location, but small, and with the strangest floor plan you'd ever see. We bought the house knowing that we would completely gut the interior, move the kitchen, redesign the floor plan, replace all the flooring, and install a second floor sewing room in what had been a two-story living room.

Needless to say, there was quite a bit of demo to be done. Everything from appliances to cabinets, fixtures and doors were being removed. Rather than see it all go into a debris dumpster (and have to pay dumpster fees), we called our local Habitat for Humanity to find our nearest ReStore.

For those of you who've never heard about this, here's a blurb from their site:

Habitat ReStores are retail outlets where quality used and surplus building materials are sold at a fraction of normal prices. Proceeds from ReStores help local affiliates fund the construction of Habitat houses within the community. Many affiliates across the United States and Canada operate successful ReStores—some of which raise enough funds to build an additional 10 or more houses per year.

Materials sold by Habitat ReStores are usually donated from building supply stores, contractors, demolition crews or from individuals who wish to show their support for Habitat. In addition to raising funds, ReStores help the environment by rechanneling good, usable materials into use.

Of course, since it's a donation to a charity, you also get a tax deduction for your donation. Bonus.

You can either take your items to the local ReStore, or, if your donation is large, give them a call and schedule a time for a pickup. It's a great alternative to Freecycling, if you don't feel like listing items and dealing with all the emails. You can also poke around and see if someone else's discarded ceiling fan is just the right size for your place. Often times, you can find unique fixtures, sinks and whatnot there, all at a fraction of the price of retail.

Hubby and now are no longer in the demo phase, (we're currently in the procrastination phase of re-construction) so we're not contributing right at the moment. However, we will continue to re-purpose our salvaged materials while at the same time contributing to a great cause.


Wow, at last count, one fridge, stove, dishwasher, washer, dryer, three doors, kitchen sink, disposal, fixtures, about half a dozen light fixtures and more stuff I probably can't remember. All saved from possible dumpster-death.

Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5

I gave this one a "2" only because I am afraid of driving downtown by myself (can you say "wuss"?). However, I am saving our salvaged items in a corner of the garage and hope to work up the courage someday soon to go downtown. I'm dying to visit the Farmer's Market and check out the local food scene anyhow and while I'm down there I could stop by our ReStore to make a donation. Maybe if I just apply my "well how hard can it be?" attitude to inner-city navigation, I'll be ok.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Day Seventy-One - Feeling Disconnected

Turning Off the Laptop During the Day

My sister, Shannon, is a super techno-geek who is always in the know on the latest and greatest electronic gadgets, so I wasn't too surprised when she emailed me last week to tell me about a neat device that measures the energy consumed by whatever you've got plugged in to it. It's called a Kill-A-Watt , it costs around $20 and can be found at hardware stores, electronics stores, Amazon, wherever. I thought it was SO COOL that I once again violated the compact and ordered one. (You can bet your sweet ass that I've been running around the house plugging virtually EVERYTHING into this! I am SUCH a dork.)

Anyhow, I've been hearing a lot on the news and online about how much power our electronic devices use just by being plugged in. Supposedly, any appliance with one of those clunky transformers is making our meter rotate faster than Michelle Kwan in a scratch spin. So I was very excited to find out just how much juice I was wasting by having my laptop connected to the wall socket. Turns out, not much. Good news - yes; but in a way, disappointing.

Here I thought I could save mega-wattage by unplugging the computer at night, but the truth is that I'm only drawing 1 watt. yippee. Don't get me wrong, a watt is a watt, and I'll still unplug it, but this wasn't the earth-shattering news I expected. So once again, my hypothesis is flawed and therefore I've decided to change my resolution to something more productive.

I am turning off and unplugging my laptop during the day. That's right folks, turns out that when my laptop is running, I'm drawing about 30 watts. Even if it's just showing the screen saver, it's still sucking down 30 watts. And, even worse, it sucks up quite a bit of my time. Time I should be spending on the floor with my kids, rather than checking my email or looking stuff up. Time I could theoretically use to clean my house, but won't. Time that is generally wasted checking Yahoo Groups, deleting emails promising "Gi_anT Pe_nis Enlarge-mint", and shopping for techno-gadgets that violate my compact.

Sure I could let it go to standby power and save a little bit of energy, but that's not the point. The point is, I don't NEED it on. I highly doubt I will ever recieve an emergency notice via email that is SO IMPORTANT that it cannot wait six hours to be read.

So, today was day one of this experiment and, knowing how I like to cheat, I had to physically remove the laptop from my desk and put it in a kitchen cabinet. It felt wierd being offline, but I'm proud to say that, thanks to my personal therapist Dr. Hershey, I worked through my withdrawal and didn't bring it out until naptime. Once naptime is over, it will be turned back off until tonight, when the kids go to bed. So if you leave a comment and don't see it right away, do not fear, I haven't fallen into the compost bin, I'm just powered down ;-)


I shut the laptop off at 7:30 am and didn't turn it back on until 2:00. It will power down again around 3:30 and be back online around 9:00. That's twelve hours of downtime, that normally would have been 'up and running' time. At an average of 30 Watts, that works out to .36 kWh a day, or over 130 kWh a year. At my average rate of $0.10/kWh, I'll be saving $13.00 a year.

Difficulty Level: 3 out of 5

I'm so used to checking emails and looking stuff up online that this will be a tough habit to break. However, the rewards are great. Today the kids and I played about twenty rounds of "Cariboo" without stopping and I built a Lego tower over 3' tall. I even got caught up on laundry. Besides, if I save up all my emails until the end of the day, I'll have so many to read, it will make me feel more popular and less dork-y. ;-)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Day Seventy - Getting Loaded

Loading Dirty Dishes in the Dishwasher

First, let me say THANK GOODNESS I found scientific backup that shows that washing dishes in the dishwasher actually uses less water than washing by hand. I was nervous that I would have to suffer the horrible malady of "dishpan hands" to be green, but was pleased to find out that dishwashers use half the energy and one-sixth the water used by hand washing the plates. Whew.

That being said, I must admit that I spend a fair amount of time pre-rinsing my dishes. Ok, WAY TOO MUCH TIME. By the time the dishes are loaded into the d/w, they sparkle like diamonds. For whatever reason, I don't seem to trust the machine to do its basic job of cleaning. I don't know why. But starting today, I'm going to attempt to suppress my OCD tendencies and load - GASP - dirty dishes into the dishwasher. I have no idea what will happen, since I've never actually tried this. The last time I experimented with a d/w, I substituted regular Palmolive and ended up with a dishwasher that looked like it had contracted rabies. But I digress...

Last night I put the stopper in the sink and let the water run as usual while I pre-washed my dishes, just to see how much water I used. I really wasn't surprised to find that I had to pull the plug not once, but twice, to keep from flooding the kitchen. Yikes. Kind of makes my "use a cup when you brush your teeth" savings look like a drop in the bucket (pun intended). Assuming last night represents your average pre-wash, I'd estimate that I use approximately seven or eight gallons of water, just to get my dishes ready for the dishwasher. Shameful.

So starting tonight, I will be skipping the pre-wash and do what nature intended. I'll let the dog lick the plates clean and pray to the Cascade Gods for clean dishes. Wish me luck.


Up to eight gallons of water a night down the drain. That's nearly as much water as the dishwasher itself uses! Assuming I skip the dish-washing once a week either due to vacation or sheer laziness, that equates to 48 gallons per week. A grand total of 2,496 gallons per year.

Difficulty Level: 3 out of 5

I know a lot of you must be laughing that I actually find this difficult to do, but I've got to be honest -- this one's really gonna make me twitch. For some reason it doesn't bother me that my kitchen chairs have so much dog fur stuck to their legs that it looks like they're all wearing fuzzy slippers; or that the weeds tower over the azaleas in our flowerbeds; but the thought of putting dishes with food stuck on them in my dishwasher really freaks me out. But hey, we've all got our quirks.... this only one of my many ;-)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Day Sixty-Nine - Mea Culpa

Forgiving Myself For Transgressions

OK, hold onto your hula hoops here folks, I've got a whopper of a news flash for you -- I am not perfect. In fact, most of the time I'm barely meeting the minimum requirements for mom, wife, business owner and budding Planeteer. Now, personally, I'm used to this "lowered bar", if you will, but I totally got called on my eco-skills this past weekend during young Ethan's 4th Birthday Bash.

I was setting up the room which included assembling Ethan's pirate-themed cake that I got at Krogers (I tried to upload a picture of it, but Blogspot wouldn't let me). Anyhow, the cake is shaped like a pirate ship, complete with upper and lower decks, mast, mainsail, crows nest and jib. It also had accessories including a cannon, treasure chest and four or five burly pirate figurines. All made out of cheap plastic, most likely coated with lead paint and imported from China.

One of my friends who knows about my "covert greening operation" gave a smirk and a nod and asked "Hey, are those all made of recyclable plastic?". ::Me Blushing::

Of course they weren't. And that wasn't the worst of it. I had bought and inflated 12 plastic balloons... I filled goodie bags with plastic eye patches, whistles, coins and telescopes... I served cake on disposable plates with plastic forks... I handed out juices in individual serving plastic pouches...and the big secret shame -- I bought my son several plastic toys including a Vtech Learning Laptop, a Robot Kit what appears to be a 1 million piece Lego set.

Now, I didn't set out to break a world record in plastic consumption that day. It just sort of happened. And it happened because I didn't plan. Time got away from me and before I knew it, the party date was looming close and I hadn't had the time to sew up a dozen pirate scarfs... or to a make a treasure map table cloth... or to think of using Ethan's 3x5 jolly roger flag for decoration... or to shop for educational, made-in-the-USA wooden toys.

So instead, about four days before the party, I did what any good mom would do. I panicked, hit the Party Source and bought anything I could find with a skull and crossbones on it.

Mea Culpa, my friends. My Bad. But you know what -- I actually have learned a lot from the experience.

I have learned that hosting a party for a bunch of four year olds ain't as easy as it seems. It takes planning and preparation to pull off a fun party -- and it takes more planning and preparation if you want to do it in an ecologically responsible manner.

I have learned that even those of us who are trying and have the best of intentions still screw up now and again. Sometimes unwittingly, sometimes knowing full well the consequences. But the important thing is that we keep on trying.

I have learned that all the daily changes I have made have a huge, cumulative, life long affect, and that the occasional transgression can be forgiven -- as long as the daily quest remains the same.

I've also learned that most of my friends are wise-asses. Oh wait, I already knew that.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Day Sixty-Eight - YOP!

Speak Up and Tell Manufacturers What You Want

I am a firm believer that one of the best ways to elicit corporate change is to use your purchasing power. For example, when you buy something organic, you are sending a message to that manufacturer that you are willing to pay a little more for a greener, chemical-free product. That, in turn, provides incentive for the green manufacturer to continue his organic efforts, and induces other companies to join the green movement. This "Dollar Voting" is a great way to let manufacturers know what you think of their products.

All that being said, sometimes the easiest way to let manufacturers know how you feel is to tell them. Surprisingly enough, they listen!

Customer service experts know that for every complaint or comment they receive, there are hundreds or perhaps thousands of other consumers who share a similar view. They pay very close attention to the comments and concerns they receive via email, mail and their toll-free consumer hotlines. The information is gathered, tabulated and sent in weekly reports to various members of the organization -- to be used in modifying and improving the product and its packaging.

This week I have contacted both Skippy and Yoplait to let them know my concerns about their packaging. Here's what happened:

Skippy's new natural smooth peanut butter is a great product, but it appears to only be offered in a 12 oz package at Krogers. This violates my vow to Buy in Bulk. Fortunately, the great customer service rep I spoke with told me that I could find larger packages at my local Costco AND offered to send me two coupons for FREE jars of peanut butter. uh, SCORE!

Yoplait has some super yummy yogurt, but like most other yogurts, the containers are made of #5 Polypropylene, which is not widely recyclable. The lids, however, are made of an aluminum foil coated in plastic, that is recyclable in some areas -- but not mine. I was disappointed on both counts, since I try to faithfully recycle everything that can be recycled in my area. However, the fabulous customer service rep gladly took my comment requesting that new packaging be considered that utilizes the more universally recyclable #1 or #2 plastics. She also asked if I would be willing to be part of a consumer focus group that provides feedback to Yoplait about its products. I gladly accepted the invitation and look forward to sharing my views with them.


Every time we let our voice be heard, we are one step closer to a greener environment. In our consumer-driven economy, we have great power to influence how heavily the corporate giants tread on our earth. And who knows? They may be waiting until they receive 50,000 complaints before they feel it is economically advantageous to change their packaging. So be like small JoJo in Dr. Suess' Horton Hears a Who and let out a small "YOP". That small "yop" might put it over.

Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5

Yeah, it's not fun spending your precious time waiting on hold for "the next available customer service representative" and hearing that "your call is important to us", but really, what is 5 minutes of your time? Besides, it's nice to bitch to someone about something and have them be paid to sound like they care. It's like free therapy.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Day Sixty-Seven - Clearing the Air

Giving Up All My Plug-In Air Fresheners

OK, for those of you who don't know, I have a husband, two toddlers (one still in diapers and one with poor aim), a dog, a compost pail, stinky feet and have recently adopted "To Hell With Personal Hygiene Day". If ever there has been a house worthy of air-freshening, it is mine. However, I've been doing some research on the ubiquitous plug-in air freshener and now I think I smell a rat.

Turns out my little light-up frangrance wafters aren't as benign as I thought. They use an interesting mix of chemicals that work in one of the following four ways:

  1. By interfering with your ability to smell by way of a nerve-deadening agent
  2. By coating your nasal passages with an undetectable oil film
  3. By covering up one smell with another
  4. By breaking down the offensive odor

The fun chemicals used to accomplish this task include some old favorites including:

  • FORMALDEHYDE - A suspected carcinogen and a strong irritant to the eyes, throat, skin and lungs
  • PETROLEUM DISTILLATES - Irritates skin, eyes, respiratory tract; may cause fatal pulmonary edema; flammable
  • P-DICHLOROBENZENE - Vapor irritating to skin, eyes and throat, causes liver damage in animal studies
  • AEROSOL PROPELLANTS - Either associated with brain damage or highly flammable

Wow, and I use this stuff to make my house feel more "homey"? Ugh. I have Freecycled all my air fresheners (how the heck did I ever end up with FIFTEEN of those things anyhow?) and am now using baking soda boxes, candles and -- God forbid -- CLEANING (using natural products, of course!).


Any time I reduce the chemical load in my home, I also reduce the chemical load in my environment. Those chemicals float around the house and then float right outside. Plus I'm saving all the plastic of the plug-ins, the electricity, the packaging and the transport. Lots of good savings. The candles I use to replace them are made here in the USA, are packaged in a recyclable glass container, the wicks are lead-free and they smell DELICIOUS. The only drawback is that they seem to make me eat more (sure, blame the candles....)

Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5

Another easy change to make. Out with the old and in with the new. I just need to be careful when using the candles while the little ones are running around.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Supplemental Post - Time Off

Hey all,

"Uma" is coming in to town this weekend to help celebrate her Grandson's birthday. He's turning the Big "4" and we're throwing him a pirate-themed party with all his scallywag friends! Arrrrgggghhh! Needless to say, I'm gonna be a little busy this weekend, so you probably won't see a post from me until Monday. Have a great one, everybody!

Day Sixty-Six - Chicken of the Sea

Buying Local Seafood

I've posted about buying local produce and wrote about how much fresher the food tastes and how it's better for the environment. Well lately I've been looking at everything that lands on our plate and trying to find ways to decrease the number of miles our meals travel to reach us. Also, since I've ixnayed the beef from our diet, I'm adding in more fish and other seafood to our weekly menus.

Fortunately for us, we live about 60 miles from the great bounty of the Chesapeake Bay, which offers up such delectables as rockfish, mackerel, flounder, blue crab, clams and oysters. I assumed that much of this great bounty ended up at my local grocer, but much to my dismay, it does not. When questioned where the "Maryland Style Blue Crab" came from, a Kroger employee was quick to admit that it was imported from Malaysia. <>. They had NO LOCAL FISH.

Fortunately, clickety-click-click, I found online some information about a local seafood shop, Bon Air Seafood. On my first visit, I explained to Jeff, the owner, that I was trying to eat as much "local food" as I could and asked if he could tell me which items were from the Chesapeake. I'll be damned if he didn't go through every single fish and shellfish in that store and identify it's origin from memory. Not only that, he recommended some great local items for me to try and even wrote down a savory recipe for rockfish. He even let me sample of the most amazing seafood-macaroni salad I've ever had. Then he packaged me up -- put all my goodies in a cardboard box with a bag of ice to keep it all fresh on the drive home. Talk about service! That place is the BEST!

I now go to the seafood shop every other week to pick up the latest and greatest seafood for our meals. The difference in smell, texture and taste between this fresh fish and the frozen crap I used to get at the grocery store is unbelievable. (sorry, Kroger, you know I love you, but your seafood sucks...) It tastes like you're sitting at a seaside restaurant, getting your dinner right off the boat. I love it!

So, if you're lucky enough to have access to fresh fish where you live, please, seek out a local seafood store -- you won't be sorry! For those of you concerned about toxins in your fish, please refer to the Environmental Working Group's Safe Fish List. Remember too that if you are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, nursing or feeding the fish to little ones that you need to be extra cautious about the types and quantities of fish you consume.


Not saving any coin on this one, but oooohhhh, the taste is SO worth it! Again, make sure the fish you are buying isn't "farmed" fish or imported. There is plenty of fresh, local fish and your fishmonger (isn't that a fun word?) will help you pick out the seafood that suits your tastes and environmental concerns!

Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5

No, it's not as easy as picking up the fish with the rest of my groceries at Kroger, but it's not difficult either. I only wish the store were closer so I could go weekly and avoid having to freeze some of the fish when I get home. All in all, it is DEFINITELY worth the added aggravation -- both to help me reduce my ecological footprint and to satisfy my tastebuds!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Day Sixty-Five - Black Gold

Starting a Compost Pile

Oh happy day, happy day!!!! My Garden Gourmet composter arrived today and I can't WAIT to get it set up! It took a while to find a compost container that wouldn't draw too much attention from the Home-Owner's Association, but I think this is a keeper! It is supposedly critter-proof and can be placed in a shady area -- which is good because that's the only place my HOA will allow me to put it.

I have a whole gooey, slimey bucket of kitchen scraps and coffee grounds under the kitchen sink that I'm excited to dump into my new composter. I started saving them about three weeks ago, hoping that having a stinking pile of garbage fester in my kitchen would motivate me to get the composter. It did, but not quickly enough, as I had to resort to tossing out some food scraps this past week because my under-the-sink container was full. I hope I don't gag when I dump it out.

Why did I decide to start composting? Well, according to an article published by the Environmental Defense Fund, organic waste accounts for approximately 21 percent of the waste stream in the United States. Landfilling organic waste is highly inefficient because the lack of oxygen inside of the landfill causes decomposition to occur slowly. This produces methane gas and acidic leachate. In addition to contributing to the environmental problems created by landfills, organic waste takes up valuable space that could be used for other waste products.

I am so happy to be doing my part to help reduce the amount of organic waste being sent to landfills! I will be tossing all my scraps (except meat) into my composter and turning it every few days. By spring, I hope to have enough beautiful, dark compost to fill a large portion of my yet-to-be-constructed vegetable garden!


If I do it correctly, I should be able to eliminate virtually all of my organic waste. The only items I won't be able to put in the compost are dairy and meats, which I can dispose of mostly through the garbage disposal. The only "throw aways" I can think of that I can't avoid are chicken bones. My goal is to get to a point where my landfill trash is so "clean", that I'll be able to cancel the weekly trash pickup (at $66 per quarter) and just take my one bag of trash in the minivan down to the dump. I should save enough money in a year to cover the cost of the composter!

Difficulty Level: 3 out of 5

In theory, composting is very simple. Save your scraps, toss them in a pile and turn it occasionally. And it is that simple if you live out in the country, but for a whole lot of Americans living in suburbia, we must find a solution that will not offend our unenlightened neighbors and HOA's.

So, for now, I'll be forced to hide my dull, black composter in the shadows, behind my "privacy lattice" where such uglies as trash cans and air handlers are kept. Yes, progress is slow, my friends, but if we keep pushing, the day will come when the suburban composter will be viewed as an elegant beautiful lawn accessory, available in an array of colors, perhaps even sporting the logo for your favorite college team.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Day Sixty-Four - Great Balls of Fire

Using Laundry Balls In Lieu of Fabric Softener

OK, it's been about a week and I'm officially over my maniacal rant about the packing nuts who sent me my dryer balls. I've been using them faithfully (once I was able to steal them back from the kids) and they really seem to work.

I have definitely seen a decrease in drying time. I'd say a reduction of about 15 minutes which reduces my dryer time to under an hour for a full load. I have absolutely no static -- but I think that may only be a seasonal thing anyhow. I don't really notice a big difference in softness, but some 100% cotton items do feel a bit more stiff -- kind of like they had been line-dried. It doesn't bother me in the least. I like crunchy underpants. TMI?
In addition to the energy savings, I'm obviously saving on water pollution, by not increasing the amount of chemicals I put in the laundry water. Of course, since I switched to Natural Laundry Agents, that hasn't been too big of a concern for me. Nonetheless, it's still contributing to slightly cleaner grey water for our sewage facility to process.
OK, my favorite part of the post -- the math calculations -- OMG I am such a nerd. Let's see now, if an average load of laundry usually takes 1.25 hours and it has been cut to only 1 hour, that's a savings of 20%.
Our model dryer runs at 3,000 watts x 1.25 hours per day x 260 days per year = 975 kWh/yr
But with same dryer using balls, we get 3,000 x 1 x 260 = 780 kWh / yr
That's a savings of 195 kWh per year. At my current rate of +- $0.10 / kWh, that's a dollar savings of $19.50. Plus I'm also saving the cost of fabric softener too!
Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5
Once I was able to convince the kids they weren't new playthings for them, it was easy. Simply toss them in the dryer and let them do their thing. They don't make very much noise -- not as loud as drying sneakers in there -- so other than the shorter drying time, there's really not much difference.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Day Sixty-Three - An Inspired Thought

Find Your Inspiration

OK, I know I'm not living in the dark like No Impact Man, or analyzing every single item I buy like Envirowoman, but still, it does take some work to log in to blogspot, day in and day out, to report my latest "greening". Some days you may notice my posts are slightly less "inspired" than others, but I keep on going? Why? Two reasons: Ethan and Daphne, my kids.

I want to make the world a better place for them. I want them to know that I did what I could to minimize damage to the planet that they and their children and grandchildren will be inhabiting long after I am gone. I also want to teach them how to be better stewards of the earth than I was -- and to take pride in doing so. My greatest joy came a few days ago when you Ethan told me "Mommy, I want we turn that light off because it's wasting 'lectricities".

So when the world's got you down and you're ready to give up the green fight, find your inspiration. For some, it might be watching an environmental flick, like "An Inconvenient Truth" or the recently released "11th Hour". For others, it might be researching global warming, ocean pollution, or water conservation. And for some of you, it might be "the starfish story".

The starfish story seems to be my sister's greatest inspiration. If I'm on my way back from picking up trash on a walk, only to find some jerk tossing a McDonald's cup out his car window, Heather will say "yes, but think how much worse it would be if you hadn't picked up - you know, like the starfish story". When I tell her what a pain in the butt it was to carry out a load of groceries in my arms because I had forgotten my reusable grocery sacks, she reminds me that "those three bags you didn't take DO make a difference -- just like in the starfish story". And when hubby is less than enthusiastic about trying muslin coffee filters, she'll say incredulously "but doesn't he know the starfish story?"

For those of you who may need a little boost of inspiration, I give to you.... The Starfish Story

One day a man was walking along the seashore. He noticed that during the night many seashells and starfish had washed upon the beach. Thoroughly enjoying the morning sun and cool sea air, the man walked for miles.

As he strolled along, he noticed a small figure dancing in the distance. It made him chuckle to think of someone celebrating life in such an uninhibited way. As he drew closer, however, it became apparent that the figure was not dancing. Instead, she seemed to be repeatedly performing some ritual.

He drew nearer still and noticed that the small figure was a child. She was methodically picking up starfish and tossing them into the surf. He paused for a moment, puzzled, then asked, "Why are you throwing these starfish?"

"It's high tide," she replied, "If I leave them on the beach, the sun will soon dry them and they will die. I am throwing them into the ocean so they can live." The man considered her actions, impressed with the child's thoughtfulness. Then he motioned up and down the miles of the beach. "There must be thousands of starfish along here," he said, "you cannot possibly make a difference."

The young girl stopped. Her face darkened. She chewed thoughtfully on her lower lip, "You're probably right," she said softly. She looked down at the sand. Then she leaned over, carefully picked up another starfish, pulled back and arched it gently into the sea.

With a tone of gentle defiance, she said, "But I made a difference for that one."

Savings :


Difficulty Level:

Attitude Dependent

**The Starfish Story was originally written by Loren Eisley and there are about one million different variations of the story, but they all share the same theme -- that one person who cares can make a difference.