Thursday, May 29, 2008

Farewell to Crunchy Chicken

Today, Crunchy Chicken announced that she would be leaving the blogosphere, at least temporarily, to take some much needed time for herself and her family. I have been reading her blog for almost a year now and will miss my daily dose of the woman who is "just clucking around". She has challenged me to make many changes I never would have considered on my own and I appreciate all she has done to educate and inspire me.

She will be greatly missed.

Wishing you the best, Deanna. Thank you for sharing.

- Erin

#231 - Hey There, Cupcake

Celebrating Daphne's Birthday in Style - Without the Plastic Clamshell

This is the seventeenth change in my month-long pledge to give up plastics for Crunchy's Extreme Eco-Throwdown.

I can't believe my little girl is going to be 3 next week! My goodness, how the time flies! It seems like just yesterday she was waking me up in the middle of the night, screaming and crying.

Oh wait, that was yesterday. DAMN, that girl is a light sleeper! Maybe I'll get her earplugs for her birthday.

Well one thing I know I'm getting here are Hello Kitty Cupcakes. I know she'll like them because she's been telling me she wants them for about two months now. Anytime you ask here "what do you want for your birthday, sweetie?" the answer invariably comes back "Hello Kiddle-ee Gupgake".

The problem being that I SUCK at baking and I SUPER SUCK at decorating cakes. I do not have a creative bone in my body. After thirty six years of trying, I have finally come to the conclusion that, aside from my offspring, I was simply not meant to create anything with aesthetic value. So I need to have someone else make and decorate the cupcakes. Problem being, that if I call Kroger, they will make the cupcakes and then stick them in those nasty plastic clamshells. You know, for "safe keeping". Because nothing says "food safety" better than non-recyclable, BPA-leeching plastic packaging.

So instead I have called upon a woman in my area who makes wonderful hand crafted treats - Laura at It's the Icing on the Cake. And she's happy to let me pick up my cupcakes without a plastic tray. In fact, she has tupperware cupcake carriers that she rents out! Talk about eco-friendly!

So let's here it for plastic-free, professionally-decorated Hello Kiddle-ee Gupgakes! If only the calories could be removed as easily as the packaging...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

#230 - Say "Cheese!"

Making My Own Mozzarella

This is the sixteenth change in my month-long pledge to give up plastics for Crunchy's Extreme Eco-Throwdown.

Have you read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle yet? If you haven't, you should. I read it this past month for Green Bean's Bookworm Challenge and I loved it! It is the story of one family eating locally for a year in southwestern Virginia. And one of the things Barbara did during that year was to learn how to make her own soft cheeses.

So I figured hey, if she can do it, so can I. You know, because I'm exactly like a well-known, published author with a homestead. Minus the "well-known", "published", "author" and "homestead" part. But back to the cheese...

Luckily, Barbara is not stingy with the details. She tells the reader exactly where she learned her craft and from whom - Ricki Carroll of New England Cheesemaking Supply. So I hopped online and ordered Ricki's "30 Minute Mozzarella and Ricotta Kit" for $24.95. I was so excited to get my package and start making my plastic-free mozzarella!

And then I opened the package. And found?


Do I even have to tell you?

A shitload of plastic. The rennet tablets come in those plastic/foil pouches, the thermometer is housed in a plastic sheath, and the citric acid comes in a plastic pouch, as does the salt. To top it off, the whole kit is then placed inside a ginormous plastic bag before being deposited in the nifty little cardboard carrying box. So much for plastic-free. But, it is a kit that will allow me to make up to 30 pounds of cheese, so hopefully that will be less than what is normally used to shrinkwrap my premade mozzie. And in the future I will be sure to order the ingredients individually so as to at least avoid the ginormous plastic bag.

Rant over, details begin here.
So this Memorial Weekend I gave it a shot. Sure as shit, about 45 minutes later (I'm a slow learner) I had turned a gallon of whole milk into a little over a pound of fresh mozzarella cheese! Basically, all I had to do was heat the milk on the stove, pour in some of the citric acid and rennet, wait for magic to occur (about 8 minutes), scoop out the curds, recite "Little Miss Muffet", squeeze out the whey, nuke the curds and pull them like taffy.
Really, it's easier than it sounds.

So we had homemade pizza that night (using my own dough, of course) and fresh basil from my deck. Can't wait for those tomatoes to ripen and I'll have a 10-foot meal! ;-) Well, kind of.

Anyhow, if you're thinking about trying this, it may not be everyday-easy, but it is a lot of fun. Be sure you have some heat resistant gloves to wear when you're pulling the cheese as it's pretty hot. Although I'd stay away from wool gloves, as they might add some texture you're not used to finding in mozzarella.

Just my $0.02.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

#229 - I Scream, You Scream!

We All Scream for Ice Cream!

This is the fifteenth change in my month-long pledge to give up plastics for Crunchy's Extreme Eco-Throwdown.

There's a small, locally-owned ice cream parlor just around the corner from me that makes their own special concoctions. They keep the standard flavors on hand - chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, peanut butter swirl, but they rotate a lot of yummy flavors as well like blueberry cheesecake or cafe mocha. Every flavor, and I mean EVERY FLECKIN' ONE is scrum-diddly-icious.

So of course we take the kids more often than we should to get our delectable frozen dairy fix. Unfortunately, the kidlings are not so gifted with the cone and, more often than not, we end up getting Daphne her treat in bowl with a plastic spoon. And Ethan is just as likely to order a milkshake in one of those Godawful Styrofoam cups as he is to get a scoop. So most trips to the ice cream shop are loaded with disposable plastic.

Not cool for an eco-dorkess.

So from here on out, I'll be using the Boy Scout Motto whenever I head over there. I shall be prepared with my own bowl and spoon for the girl and a large cup for the boy. Me? I'll just make sure my order comes to me in a chocolate-coated, sprinkle waffle cone. You know, to help save the environment.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Great Read Today

Hey folks, just realized today is actually Monday, which means you're probably expecting a post from me. Well, as I told my mom many, many years ago, "prepare to be disappointed".

However, if you're looking for a truly insightful and motivational read today (although odds are you're not since you're reading "Burbanmom") please check out Kyle's post today over at Green With A Gun. He makes a great argument for all of us to get off our duffs and do something today.

You know, like I'm supposed to be doing.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Friday, May 23, 2008

Give a Little Love

Write a Little Email

Important post today from No Impact Man, asking us to take all of two seconds to send an email. I hope you will oblige...

I really, really need support from all of you today...

Next Friday, May 30, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York's Eight Congressional District has kindly agreed to meet with me in his New York office. As one of his constituents, I intend to ask Representative Nadler to support an effective global warming mitigation policy that is based not on what is politically possible but on what is scientifically necessary.
More specifically, I intend to ask him to:

  • Introduce, as soon as possible, a non-binding resolution to the House of Representatives asserting that we need a climate change mitigation policy with a goal of no more than
350 ppm of atmospheric carbon dioxide (read why here). Furthermore, the resolution should say that the United States must collaborate with the international community to achieve an effective successor to the Kyoto Protocol that will achieve the 350 goal or better (depending on how the science progresses).

  • Pledge to support the policy platform that also includes creating five million green jobs (through, for example, weatherizing our buildings and manufacturing solar panels and windmills), and placing a moratorium on the building of new coal power plants.
  • Pass on to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a letter addressed jointly to her and Representative Nadler, in his position as Assistant Whip, asking them both to push for the introduction of new and the strengthening of currently pending climate change legislation to reflect the crucial 350 goal. This means, at the very least, aiming for an 80% reduction in climate emissions below 1990 levels by 2050 and a 25% reduction by 2020.
  • Now then, here's how I was hoping you could help. My dream is to present Representative Nadler and Speaker Pelosi with between 350 and 3,500 (10 x 350) emails of support for these policy objectives. Can you help? All it requires is a cut and paste job (see below).

    Here's how to send in your email of support:

    Simply cut and paste the below, making sure to substitute in your name, mailing address and email address, and send it to (it looks like a weird email address but, don't worry, it will work).

    Dear Representative Nadler and Speaker Pelosi--

    Thank you for your hard work on behalf of the people of the United States. It is indisputable that the health, happiness and security of the American people depends upon the well-being of our planetary habitat. It is also indisputable that the anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases is causing changes in our habitat that will adversely effect Americans on every level--from our health to our economy.

    On May 30, Colin Beavan aka No Impact Man will visit Representative Nadler to express to him support for a number of climate change mitigation policies that are much stronger than those currently passing through Congress. Please consider this a letter of support for the measures Colin Beavan will be advocating.

    Specifically, I support Colin Beavan in requesting that Representative Nadler and Speaker Pelosi both, together or separately:

    Introduce, as soon as possible, a non-binding resolution to the House of Representatives asserting that we need a climate change mitigation policy that accords not with what is politically possible but what is scientifically necessary--a goal of no more than

    350 ppm of atmospheric carbon dioxide (read why here). Furthermore, this resolution should assert that the United States must collaborate with the international community to achieve an effective successor to the Kyoto Protocol that will achieve the 350 goal or better (depending on how the science progresses).

    Pledge to support the policy platform that also includes creating five million green jobs (through, for example, weatherizing our buildings and manufacturing solar panels and windmills) and placing a moratorium on the building of new coal power plants.

    Push for the introduction of new and the strengthening of currently pending climate change legislation to reflect the crucial 350 goal. This means, at the very least, aiming for an 80% reduction in climate emissions below 1990 levels by 2050 and a 25% reduction by 2020.

    Yours sincerely,

    [Your Name, Mailing Address & Email Here]

    #228 - Hands Up!

    Replacing Liquid Soap With Bar Soap in the Bathrooms

    This is the fourteenth change in my month-long pledge to give up plastics for Crunchy's Extreme Eco-Throwdown.

    Growing up, we had a little soap tray in our bathroom, right next to the sink, that held a bar of soap. Any time we needed to wash our grubby little digits, we grabbed the bar, lathered up, rinsed off and headed out. Sometimes, the bar would get all slimy on the bottom and someone (Mom?) would clean off the soapdish and life would be good again. It was quaint, it was functional, it was all we ever knew.

    Fast forward 'hmm-hmm' years and I have a four year-old visiting my house who is in need of a little hand washing. He exits the bathroom all drippy and perplexed, asking me where the bottle of soap is hidden. Sitting on the counter is a rectangular mass with a slimy bottom.

    How could the kid possibly know that the green blob next to the sink is hand soap? After all, it doesn't look like hand-soap. It looks like soap-soap. And, to further his defense, he probably has also only ever known baby wash, so the soap-soap just looks like a mushy brick or something. Hell, maybe he thinks it's decoration.

    So I give up and buy a bottle of Dr. Bronner's Liquid Castille soap to put in some ceramic soap dispensers in the bathrooms. Eco-soap -- eco-solution. Yes? Well, I thought it was a great idea until I started this dingity dang "no plastics" challenge.

    Fortunately for me, the lovely and talented Mary of Goat Soap Lady Fame comes to the rescue again. I stopped by her booth at the market today and picked up a bar of honest-to-goodness hand soap. How do I know it's hand soap? Just look at it:

    Kind of says it all, doesn't it? Soap even a four year old can understand.

    Thursday, May 22, 2008

    #227 - Light A Candle, Curse The Glare

    Using Only Beeswax or Soy Candles

    Frickin' Blogger just ate my whole damn post and now I have to start all over again. It was good too. Really funny. But now it's late and I'm tired and tipsy so don't blame me if this sucks. Blame Blogger.

    OK, rant over. Modified, shortened and unfunny version of post commencing here.

    I like scented candles. Most are made from paraffin wax, which is derived from petroleum. Petroleum sucks. So I'm buying soy and/or beeswax candles instead.

    Bonus points from buying from a local vendor that I found at the farmer's market.



    Wednesday, May 21, 2008


    I've been tagged by Daharja over at Cluttercut for Tagination, and since I haven't done a meme in a while, I thought it would be fun. Also? I hadn't really come up with a new change today, so it's like fate intervening. And you know how those interventions can be. Best to just nod your head and go along with it or they'll be checking you in to Betty Ford faster than you can say "Alabama Slammer".

    The rules of the game get posted at the beginning. Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answers.

    a) What was I doing 10 years ago? Hmmmm, 1998, I was working as the Billing Director for a CLEC (Competitive Local Exchange Carrier) in Syracuse, NY. I hadn't yet started dating my now hubby, but had met with him on work-related projects and thought he was cute :-).

    b) What are 5 things on my to-do list for today (not in any particular order):

    1. Pick up Conner, drop Conner off at preschool and then drop Ethan off at preschool
    2. Take Daphne to her weekly playgroup at the park
    3. Pick up Ethan from preschool
    4. Go to fabric store to get a navy blue plaid, navy thread and oil
    5. Take the kids out to a special "end of school year" dinner at Chez McD (their pick, not mine! How I wish Bonefish would install those toddler-size hamster tubes so we could eat there occasionally!)
    c) Snacks I enjoy: Would be much simpler to list snacks I don't enjoy: Liver pate and dog shit. Unless, of course, there is sour cream to spread on them. Then I'd probably eat those too.

    d) Things I would do if I were a billionaire: Put a couple million in trust funds for each of my kids, my niece and my nephew. Buy a vacation home for me and my family (parents, sisters and in-laws) to share in the Adirondacks or on Lake Ontario so we could all get together more often. Get my hubby the sailboat of his dreams. Provide private grants to municipalities who are looking to implement alternative energy sources, plan community gardens, create functional mass transit, design bike-friendly roads, etc.

    e) Places I have lived: Upstate New York (various cities & towns) Newport News, VA; Peekskill, New York; Richmond, VA.

    As for tagees, I won't name any names, but if you like this Tagination, jump on the bandwagon! Come on, you didn't really want to work on your post, did you?

    Tuesday, May 20, 2008

    #226 - Oh Nuts

    Taking Soap Nuts for a Spin

    This is the twelfth change in my month-long pledge to give up plastics for Crunchy's Extreme Eco-Throwdown.

    Well Criminy, between these soap nuts and my dryer balls, laundry time at Casa Burban is starting to sound a lot like gay porn. It's not though. I know because there's no cheesy "baw-chicka-baw-baw" music in the background.

    So you know that I switched to Seventh Generation Powder Detergent back in.... oh wait. I never posted about it! Egads! You know, sometimes I'm just making so many changes, I forget to tell you about some of them. Oh well, too late now. I've been using the powdered detergent for months now and it works great. The only downside (other than the price tag) is that it comes with a plastic scoop in every package. Like we couldn't just use our own measuring cups? COME ON!

    So since this month's challenge is all about avoiding plastic, I ordered up some soapnuts from Amazon. Just five of them - enough to see if they worked. Of course, silly me, they came packaged in plastic. Sometimes you just can't win.

    But here's a review for those inquiring minds: They work.

    Yup. Sure as soapnut shit, they cleaned the clothes. I have a high efficiency front-loader and had no problem with over sudsing.

    Now for the rest of the inquiring minds who wonder what the hell soap nuts are:

    Soapnuts are the dried fruit of the Soapberry tree. They contain saponin, a natural cleaner used for thousands of years to clean clothes. Soap nuts, especially Sapindus mukorossi, have become popular as an environmentally friendly alternative to manufactured, chemical detergents . A few nuts can be placed in a cotton drawstring bag in with a washload and reused several times. Soap nuts are safe for washing silk, woolens and other delicate fabrics.

    So, yes, they do work. BUT. (I've always got a big BUT, don't I? Wait. Don't answer that.) I'm just not sure that importing a bunch of nuts from Indonesia is any better for the environment than using plant-based detergent made in Canada that comes with a recyclable plastic scoop. My gut tells me that, at best, it's a wash. hehehehe.

    So, to avoid making another decision that doesn't feel quite right, I'm going to zig instead of zag. I think I'll give up my 7G Laundry Detergent AND the soapnuts. Instead, I'll try making my own laundry detergent using a combination of washing soap, borax and goatsmilk soap - all natural and all plastic free.

    I guess that'll make me a soapnut then, eh?

    Monday, May 19, 2008

    #225 - Raise Your Hand If You're Sure

    Switching to an All-Natural Deodorant Stone

    This is the eleventh change in my month-long pledge to give up plastics for Crunchy's Extreme Eco-Throwdown.

    Yeah. Does the idea of a "natural deodorant crystal" just make you think of miracle supplements to enhance breast size and other quack remedies? Me too. In fact, I was so sure I was throwing money down the drain when I ordered my Thai Deodorant Stone that I also purchased a new Degree antiperspirant / deodorant stick the same week. Call it a leap of non-faith, if you will, but I wasn't ready to risk stinking all week long.

    The stone arrived last Wednesday and I was all excited to try it out. So, of course, bright and early Thursday morning I forgot I had it and used my regular stick instead. Ooops. Well, I remembered to put it on Friday morning and gave it a full workout. We were heading out camping for the weekend and since hubby was working all day, that meant I had to pack everything up and load it all in the minivan, all while keeping the children amused and cleaning the house. Does anyone else out there HATE to come home from vacation to a messy house?

    Anywhich, I packed the stone to bring with me on our trip too. Talk about putting it to the test! We hung out at the beach and went for long nature walks. We sat by the campfire at night and chased the kids around on their bikes during the day. By all accounts I should smell like a dirty jock strap. But I don't. In fact, I don't smell like anything. No body odor, no flowery deodorant smell, no nothing. It's like smelling my elbow. Just nothingness. I am amazed.

    I have either spontaneously morphed into a non-sweat producing hominid, have developed an acute case of anosmia, or, and this would be the option that is most surprising to me - this shit actually works.

    For those of you who aren't familiar with these magical stones or why we should consider using them, let me give you the low down on traditional deodorants and antiperspirants. This information is from a recent article on Green is Universal:

    Thirty years ago researchers first detected significantly elevated aluminum levels in the brain of Alzheimer's patients, and subsequently proposed a link between the heavy metal and the disease. Though scientists still debate the connection, certainly aluminum is a toxic heavy metal that has no useful biological function, and which we don't want building up in our bodies, ever.

    Manufacturers long discounted any such effect from aluminum salts in deodorants, which they claimed would not be absorbed through the skin. This assumption has proven wrong, and over time users of commercial deodorant do accumulate the stuff, sometimes in significant levels. A recent medical report described a woman who ended up with severe aluminum toxicity directly as a result of her deodorant use.

    Most commercial deodorants also contain parabens, which act as preservatives and stabilizers, but which like aluminum can be absorbed with systemic effects. Parabens mimic estrogen, and though the amounts we absorb on a daily basis might be small, over time, the accumulation can be significant. A report from England in 2004 documented a relationship between parabens and breast cancer.

    The deodorant stones, however, are made from potassium alum, which occurs naturally in such minerals as Alunite (alum stone), Bauxite and Kalinite. The alum that is used in the deodorant stone is in the salt form, not the metallic form, which is used in commercial deodorants. The alum is also too large (molecularly speaking) to be absorbed by the skin. Also, the stones contain no other ingredients, such as parabens, fragrances and what have you.

    To use the stone, I simply wet it a bit and rub it on my underarms. It feels like a roll on and dries pretty quickly. The stone itself is oval shaped and fits in the palm of my hand. Supposedly, it will last me about a year, as opposed to my Degree deodorant, which lasts about three months.

    Now the stone was NOT totally plastic free. As you can see from the picture, it came wrapped in a little plastic wrapper and included a small plastic tray. However, if you compare that small amount of plastic with four plastic deodorant holders, it's obvious that this change would dramatically reduce the waste associated with destinkifying my pits. I smell a miracle, folks!

    Friday, May 16, 2008

    #224 - Feeling Krafty

    Using Paper Tape for My Packages

    This is the tenth change in my month-long pledge to give up plastics for Crunchy's Extreme Eco-Throwdown.
    Warning: Shameless Commerce Plug

    If you're new to my li'l ol' blog, you might not know that I sew for a [meager] living. My extremely talented (but much OLDER) sister is the Very Merry Seamstress and I sew most of her peasant and merchant garb.

    On a side note, all the cool people order from her. You want to be cool, don't you? Well what are you waiting for then?

    Anysides, I sew various gowns for people and then mail them out via US Post. I use the Post because I feel it's the most environmentally friendly choice. Afterall, I know that the mailman is already coming to your house so no special trip is required. Of course, it helps that it's also the least expensive method of shipping and that they give you free boxes to ship your stuff in. What they don't give you is packing tape.

    I have always used the standard plastic shipping tape that you can find in any office supply, drug or even grocery store. But recently I made a switch to kraft paper tape. You know the kind I mean. It's brown and it looks like it's got thread crosshatched throughout. Well that is a non-plastic alternative to the regular see-through stuff. What you might not know is that it doesn't arrive all sticky. You have to wet it to make it work. It's kind of like hanging wall paper, except the wall has a corner every eight inches. So yea, it's lots of fun.

    But it works. In fact, that shit sticks like a mo' fo'. Jesse Ventura himself couldn't get that tape off. I don't think Ace Ventura could either. And honestly, it doesn't take but a minute longer to use than the plastic stuff. A little swipe with a washcloth, slap it on, and I'm good to go. So a little convenience is traded for a little piece of mind. Totally worth it, in my opinion.

    Unfortunately, the local Office Max doesn't stock the stuff. But, the Staples store has it online and I'm hoping that when I venture over to the other side of town I'll find that they stock it in store as well. I'm over that way at least once a month, so it shouldn't be difficult to remain well stocked. And maybe I'll even hang some on the wall. It might make a nice, understated wall border.

    Thursday, May 15, 2008

    #223 - Pl-ass-tic Free

    Buying Toilet Paper Without Plastic Packaging

    This is the ninth change in my month-long pledge to give up plastics for Crunchy's Extreme Eco-Throwdown. And I got the idea from Fake Plastic Fish. Actually, I got most of my plastic-free ideas from her. :-) Thanks, Beth!

    I switched to Seventh Generation's toilet paper last August because their tp made from 100% recycled paper, with 80% of it being post-consumer waste. Great stuff. Actually, rough stuff, but it gets the job done. My only beef with the paper was that it came wrapped in plastic packaging. Well no longer.

    Taking Beth's advice, I hopped online to and got me a by-the-case toilet paper subscription. Cuz hey, I may have given up the Sunday Times, but I sure as hell ain't canceling my subscription to a wiped ass. Anyhow, the cases come packaged with 48 rolls, each roll individually wrapped in paper. No plastic to be found! Plus, with so many of them, they make great building blocks for the kids :-)

    Wednesday, May 14, 2008

    #222 - Sponge-Worthy

    Switching from Plastic Sponges to Cellulose

    This is the eighth change in my month-long pledge to give up plastics for Crunchy's Extreme Eco-Throwdown.

    I used to buy a three-pack of Scotch-Brites every month or so, before I "turned green". I haven't bought a new plastic sponge now in almost a year. The ones I have are ragged and worn and are, most likely, thoroughly laden with a thousand garden variety household bacterium. But they still work, so I'm keeping them - holes, inhabitants and all.

    However, since I am working to find non-plastic alternatives this month, I got me some stylin' cellulose scrubbers to supplement my septic sponges.

    I ordered a two-pack of the Twist Loofah Sponge from for $4.49 plus $8.00 shipping, because, of course, I can't find a natural cellulose sponge with a scrubber side anywhere in Richmond. I have two kids, a dog, a husband, and poor cooking skills. Trust me - I NEED a scrubber side.

    Anyhow, I've been using the new sponges and they seem to work just fine. The sponge, as I mentioned is cellulose (which means it's made from trees) and the scrubber side is a loofah (made from a tropical dried fruit). The loofah part doesn't seem to hold up quite as well as its petro-counterpart, but then again, that's the idea, isn't it? That we're trying to move away from the infinite life span of plastics to a more natural, biodegradable product?

    That being said, I hope these suckers last a long time. At over six bucks a pop, that's a lot of jingle and unless I can find these locally, I don't think I'll be buying them again. I do have my cheap-ass backup system on hand, though: Standard Cellulose Sponge + Elbow Grease + Fingernail Scraping + Occasional Stainless Steel Pot Scrubber = less than $3.00 at Kroger.

    Tuesday, May 13, 2008

    Calling All Braniacs

    Hey all you smart folks, can you do a gal a favor? We've got quite a discussion going on about the pros and cons of plastic vs. corn-based garbage bags in the comments section of the previous post. If you've got any insightful information, or just like to mix things up, we'd love to hear from you!

    #221 - It's In The Bag

    Using Biodegradable, Non-Plastic Trash Bags

    This is the seventh change in my month-long pledge to give up plastics for Crunchy's Extreme Eco-Throwdown.

    Let me tell you right off the bat, that I'm not 100% convinced that this alternative to plastic trash bags is the best solution to the problem of waste disposal. I have mixed feelings about any technology that uses corn (ie: ethanol fuel, bio-bags, etc.) for anything other than food. Especially when you consider the current world food market and the sharp increase seen in basic grains, just over the past year. However, the bio-bags are an alternative to petroleum-based garbage bags and, since plastic avoidance is the name of the game this month, I'm giving them a go.

    For those of you who don't know, BioBags are 100% biodegradable and 100% compostable waste bags made from the material, Mater-Bi. Here's the LD from their website:

    • BioBag products are certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute to meet the ASTM D6400 specification.

    • BioBag products meet the new California law, SB 1749, for biodegradable and compostable product claims.

    • BioBags are certified GMO Free. Furthermore, we only source corn from countries that do not allow GMO testing.

    • No polyethylene is used in the production of BioBags.

    • BioBags are DEN certified for restricted use of metals in our soy-based inks and dyes.
      BioBags are shelf stable, just like paper plates or paper towels. There are no chemical additives to enhance decomposition. The bags biodegrade naturally when expose to the earth’s elements and micro-organisms in the soil.

    • BioBags “breathe”, which allows heat and moisture to escape or evaporate. This feature reduces bacterial build-up of collected waste, thus reducing odor.

    • BioBags will decompose in a controlled composting environment in 10-45 days, leaving no harmful residues behind.

    • BioBags will decompose in a natural setting at an extended rate comparable to other naturally biodegradable materials, such as paper, leaves and food waste.

    Now, just so we're clear here, I'm not using these bags for my compost waste. All of my compost is collected in a tight-sealing tupperware-style container under my sink and is then dumped directly into the ol' Garden Gourmet. I'm instead using these bags for my regular trash that goes to the dump. "Why bother?", you ask. Great question, considering the bag will most likely never see the light of day or even enough air and dirt to cause decomposition anyhow.

    I guess the reason I'm switching has less to do with the end of the process as the beginning. Meaning, if I have to toss something into a landfill, never to be seen again, I'd rather it come from a renewable resource like corn, rather than a non-renewable resource like oil.

    So far, the bags are working quite well. My trash is relatively "clean" though, because I'm so anal about my recycling and composting. I don't know if they would hold up as well under the stress of soggy vegetables and wet cans and bottles. But, I'm guessing if you're thinking about compostable trash bags, odds are that you too are recycling and composting. If you're not - give them a try! Hell, if I can do it, ANYONE can!

    So what are your thoughts on the biodegradable bags? Is there a better alternative available?

    Friday, May 9, 2008

    The Bookworm Challenge

    I know I've been posting a lot about Crunchy's Eco-Throwdown Challenge and it looks to the outside world like I'm totally ignoring Green Bean's Bookworm Challenge, but I assure you I am not. I have been savoring my latest library find: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle for over a week now.

    Barbara Kingsolver has written an engaging story about her family's relocation to a farm in Southwest Virginia where they take on the daunting challenge of eating locally for one year. Barbara's writing style is very informal and the book is full of dry humor, which I tend to like. The book itself is part autobiography / part textbook and wholly entertaining. The mental picture of a "Vegetannual" is something that will stick with me the rest of my life. Or at least until next week - I'm old, I have memory issues.

    It's a great read for me right now, as I am trying to migrate our eating habits toward a more regional, seasonal diet. The thrill of sourcing out a new pasture-raising beef farm nearby or picking up my weekly CSA bounty is a new kind of excitement for me. I take great pleasure in seeking out local bakeries, cheese makers and flour mills. Sometimes I'm successful, other times I'm not. Occasionally, the find just falls in my lap by surprise. However it happens, though, it is always a welcome surprise to discover a hidden food source right in your own backyard.

    Anyhow, back to the book. I'm a little more than halfway through, but I'm taking my time with reading, hoping to digest as much as possible before I have to return it from whence it came. I'm also taking from it some great ideas, websites and recipes that I'm planning on jotting down somewhere for future reference.

    You may have noticed my posts so far this month have been a little shorter. They are lacking in their calculations and difficulty ratings. But this affords me lots of extra time to stick my nose in the book and be transported to Barbara's homestead, where she teaches me about, for lack of a better word, local foodology. A subject I'm beginning to think should be taught in every grade school, high school, home school and college throughout the US.

    Thursday, May 8, 2008

    The Value of Money

    Fiscal Lessons Learned from a Four Year Old Boy

    Ethan and Daphne both received piggy banks from Santa last Christmas. Since that time, they have conned us out of every errant penny, nickel, dime and quarter that is left within child's view. Their piggies are getting heavy and the kids often talk about what they might purchase with all their newfound wealth.

    Well last week, Mommy instituted Chore Charts for the little ones. They each got to select a "Reward" that they would work for all week long. If they managed to earn enough stars that week, the reward would be theirs.

    Daphne, my girlie girl, chose a garish purple and pink Barbie Princess dress, complete with a sparkley magic wand. Ethan, ever the pragmatist, opted for cold, hard cash. Four dollars, to be exact.

    So the end of the week came and they had both earned their 25 stars. I pulled Daphne's gown off the wall where it hung and presented it to her as she squealed with delight. I then went to my purse and pulled out four, crisp, new dollar bills and gave them to Ethan.

    Ethan graciously said "thank you" and then went in the other room, presumably to count the bills (that's my boy! -- trust NO ONE!). He came back a few minutes later, looking rather glum, grasping his hard-earned greenbacks, and asked "Mommy, can I has my scissors so I can cut these into circles and make REAL money?".

    #220 - A Mug of Sudser, a Leather Strop

    An Apron, a Towel, a Pail and a Mop

    This is the sixth change in my month-long pledge to give up plastics for Crunchy's Extreme Eco-Throwdown.

    So the first thing I learned about shaving with a safety razor is that you wants lots of thick, foamy lather to help the razor glide across your skin. Unfortunately, my "no plastics pledge" precludes me from picking up a can of Skintimate Shaving Gel at Walgreens, because, although the can is made of recyclable steel, the packaging includes a big plastic cap and spout.

    So enter once again - Mary, the Goatsoap Lady. Last week at the farmer's market, Mary hooked me up with a shaving kit - complete with ceramic mug, goats-milk shaving soap and shaving brush. Unfortunately, it also included a disposable razor that I didn't see until I got home. Ooopsie. I considered taking it back to Mary with a stern lecture about the evils of plastic, but thought better of it. One should never piss off a goat-milkin', soap-makin' woman, you know. It creates bad karma and you're likely to find more than goats milk in your next bar of soap. Instead, I'm going to keep the razor in my "I forgot it" box of toiletries that I keep on hand for friends and family who come to visit.

    But I digress. Again.

    My new plastic-free solution to creating a thick, creamy lather works quite well. I place the soap circle in the bottom of the mug, add some hot water and stir. I feel like Sweeney Todd, minus the whole vengeful, homicidal-maniac thing. In fact, I find myself singing "Swing your razor high, Sweeney...." every time I shave. And yes, it does creep out my husband.

    Wednesday, May 7, 2008

    #219 - Safety First

    Switching From a Plastic Disposable Razor to a Safety Razor

    This is the fifth change in my month-long pledge to give up plastics for Crunchy's Extreme Eco-Throwdown.

    The timing on this change just happened to be perfect. For several years I have been using a Venus plastic razor with disposable blade heads. These heads are made of plastic and come individually sheathed in mini plastic cups. The whole package of six blade heads is, of course, then wrapped in more plastic. None of which is recyclable in my area.

    Last week, I finally used my last plastic blade. Like I said, the timing was perfect.

    So instead of purchasing more plastic replacement heads, I hopped on eBay and purchased a "vintage" (translation: "used"-but-can-charge-double-because-"vintage"-sounds-cool) woman's Gillette Safety Razor. It's a butterfly twist-to-open model that takes a single, stainless steel blade. So far, my source for the blades has been a bit disappointing -- they are sold in a plastic container at Walgreens-- but if I continue my search I'm hoping I can find them in a cardboard box (translation: little help here!).

    Surprisingly, I have not cut the crap out of my legs with the new razor. But I also am not getting as close a shave as I'm used to. From what I've read, though, using a safety razor does require a certain technique that takes time to hone.
    Yeah, sometimes I just write these posts to amuse myself.

    Tuesday, May 6, 2008

    #218 - I'll Pencil You In

    Choosing Pencils Over Pens

    This is the fourth change in my month-long pledge to give up plastics for Crunchy's Extreme Eco-Throwdown.

    Why is it that once you pass the age of twelve, using a pencil feels so juvenile? Who determined that pens were for grown ups and pencils for kids? Is it because we want to see ourselves as so infallible that we no longer have need for an eraser?

    In truth, the only occasions that require a pen are those that legally bind us to an agreement. Whether it's something complex as signing a mortgage or as mundane as putting your John Hancock on a check, legal agreements are really the only items that require ink. Everything else, however, can be done in pencil. The grocery lists, the to-do lists, random doodles and blog ideas - all these and more can be done with a old fashioned pencil.

    Why does it even matter? Because the majority of pens found in our homes and offices are disposable pieces of crap. The body of the pen is generally made from plastic and the ink is a combination of solvents, pigments, dyes, resins, lubricants, solubilizers, surfactants, particulate matter, fluorescers, and other materials. I wonder what the river that runs by that factory looks like.

    A pencil, on the other hand, is made from a mixture of graphite and clay encased in a wooden sheath, with perhaps a rubber eraser attached to one end. Couldn't be simpler or more natural. Unless I was writing on a cave wall with like, a charred stick or piece of dried animal dung or something.

    And unlike a disposable pen, when a pencil is used up, it's used up. There's nothing left save some wood shavings, a nub of eraser and a metal ring. A pen, on the other hand, still retains all its plasticky likeness - an empty shaft to be tossed in the landfill where it may or may not degrade in a thousand years or so. And since Bic alone has sold over one hundred billion disposable ballpoint pens since the 1950's, you can imagine the tons and tons of waste these hollow cylinders create.

    So I'm giving up plastic pens in favor of pencils. I don't see myself signing a new mortgage anytime soon and maybe by then I'll have found a nice aluminum or stainless steel refillable fountain pen. In the meantime, though, you'll find me with an old #2 in my hand (and by that I mean the pencil, not the poo).

    Monday, May 5, 2008

    #217 - Whip It Good

    Making My Own Whipped Cream Instead of Buying the Stuff in the Tub

    This is the third change in my month-long pledge to give up plastics for Crunchy's Extreme Eco-Throwdown.

    Strawberry season is upon us here in sunny Virginia and the kids, hubby and I picked twenty pounds of the beautiful red jewels yesterday at a farm around the corner. My god, they are sweet and juicy, bursting with flavor and they smell of early summer.

    And like all good fruits, they need whipped cream.

    I know the spray whipped cream is lots of fun to use, but with two little kids in the house, it's a little too fun, if you know what I mean. So that means I'm left with "Cool Whip" which is not even a distant cousin to the dairy family. In fact, the ingredient list reads like a chem lab experiment: water, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated coconut and palm kernel oil (CPKO), sodium caseinate, vanilla extract, xanthan and guar gums, polysorbate 60 (glycosperse), and beta carotene. Not exactly "down on the farm goodness". And if I want to avoid the non recyclable #5 tub (check your own municipality to see if it's recyclable in your area), I've got no other option but to make it myself.

    Which is actually really easy. The ingredient list reads like this: Heavy Whipping Cream and Sugar. I put my metal mixing bowl in the fridge and let it get all cold. Then I put it on my mixer (you could do this by hand, if you're a masochist) and whip it good. I pour in some sugar as I go.

    It's pretty hard to fuck this up. Unless you whip it for too long, in which case I believe you'd get butter. Very sweet butter. Which I would probably still eat because, well, I just would.

    It takes less than five minutes to make the real deal at home and oh, it is so yummy! Store it in the fridge, it will last for days, if you have that kind of willpower. And if she starts to lose some of her "oomph" (technical term) just whip her a little more. It's ok. She likes it.

    Thursday, May 1, 2008

    #216 - A Salty Bitch Am I

    Switching from Traditional Toothpaste to Baking Soda

    This is the second change in my month-long pledge to give up plastics for Crunchy's Extreme Eco-Throwdown, and I must say, it was easier than I thought. I dumped a couple tablespoons of baking soda in an empty glass spice container. I shook some of it out onto my recycled toothbrush and proceeded with the ol' Burbanmom tooth-brushin' routine.

    It did a great job getting my teeth clean, but I must confess, my mouth still tasted a little funky. I'm not talking about the extreme saltiness of the baking soda (which I actually like) I mean that I can still taste what I had for dinner. So I'm thinking I would need to supplement this new toothpaste with mouthwash, which comes in a plastic bottle, thereby defeating the whole idea of going tubeless.


    Now, align yourself here....

    The purpose of this challenge, for me at least, is to find creative ways to avoid plastic. I'm looking for something minty, perhaps even slightly medicinal, to remove the stale taste from my mouth. And it must come packaged in a glass bottle. Hmmmmm.....

    Is anyone else here thinking "Peppermint Shnapps"?

    No? What's that? "Peppermint extract" you say? Well, that doesn't sound nearly as much fun for Burbanmom, but I guess I'll give it a go.

    And in honor of my new plastic-free oral cleansing routine, I present to you -

    The Burbanita:
    Serves 4 1

    12 oz. Vodka
    6 oz. Rumpleminze Shnapps
    2 oz. Jagermeister
    2 oz. Blue Curacao Liquer
    3/4 tsp. sugar
    2 -2 1/2 cups of ice

    Add ice to the blender first and then the above ingredients. You might have to adjust the amount of ice you use depending how thick you like your burbanitas. Play with this until you get the consistency that you like, or until you get bored and/or sober. Be sure to rub the rim of a margarita glass with your tongue and dip in salt. Pour burbanitas into the margarita glass and garnish with mini candy-canes. Or, if no one else it there, just stick a straw in the blender and have at it.

    Invite some with friends tonight. Hell, have some tomorrow night too, it's the weekend! In fact, Cinco de Mayo is Monday, why not make it a long weekend and just get plastered? Your mouth will feel minty fresh every time you puke! :-)

    #215 - Making A-Toner-ment

    Swapping My Neutrogena Toner for Burt's Bees Garden Tomato Toner

    Today starts Day One of my participation on Crunchy's Extreme Eco-Throwdown. I have pledged to give up plastics for the month of May and, in typical 'Burban style, I'm gonna pussyfoot my way through it, one change at a time.

    Today's change has me dropping my old faithful, but plastic-packaged toner with an all natural toner that comes in a glass bottle with just a small plastic top. The added bonus is that its ingredients consist of words I can actually pronounce.

    Here's the down side. I have a nice diagnosed case of postule rosacea. Which means any changes in my diet, the weather, or my face care regimen will turn my face into zit city. And I'm not talking little whiteheads that you can pop with your fingernail, I'm talking big-ass, subterranean pimples that hurt when the wind blows on them. It takes about two weeks from the date of the "incident", so I'm expecting to look like a real purdy chick by mid-month.

    But I'm hoping that once my skin adjusts I'll be able to keep my new toner and will have permanently eliminated yet another plastic bottle from our home.