Monday, June 30, 2008

Going Green Kickoff!

OK, folks, I know I said that July 1 would be our official kickoff date, but I didn't know at the time that we would be spending this week with family. And so, in true 'Burban fashion, I'm kicking off our Going Green challenge by Going on Vacation.

Yeah, that whole "lazy" bit in the profile -- not just for show.

I'll post our first change on Wednesday via the new Blogger Scheduler, but will not be posting on Friday, July 4th (Independence Day in America where Obnoxious Drunks + Illegal Fireworks = Rockin' Good Time).

So lucky you - you'll have almost a whole week to implement the inaugural change! Woo hoo! Let's change the world! When we get around to it!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Balancing the Books

Looking for a great way to track your actual carbon footprint? And to make sure your changes are really reducing your carbon? Then sign up for this challenge!

Friday, June 27, 2008

And Speaking of Perfection....

Earlier this week, I wrote about how the media's unattainable, unsustainable portrayal of American life pushes many of us to dream of bigger houses, faster cars and more stuff. How our "keeping up with Joneses" attitude is a major contributor to "keeping up the carbon count". And basically, how we should all just get over our lame attempts at Hollywood perfection and just be happy with the bounty that is our daily life.

Well today I'm taking aim at eco-perfection. That's right. Eco-perfection, although a noble goal, is also pretty unattainable. And if you're really going to make this carbon-reducing attempt a permanent, lifestyle change, you need to accept the fact early on that you will not be able to do it all.

In the past year, I've tried a lot -- and I mean A LOT -- of eco-friendly changes. Some are easy, one-time changes and others are tasks that require me to up-end my daily schedule. While I've been able to stick with most of my changes, I have totally faltered on a few. And that's ok. Because it's the overall picture that matters. I have greatly reduced my overall emissions without making myself (or my family) go absolutely nuts.

So as we near the kickoff of our collective Going Green challenge, remember that's ok to pass on a couple of the changes. Some of these may skeeve you out. Some may not be financially feasible. Some might just not work in your particular situation. It's ok. Just don't give up. Because maybe by this time next year, it won't seem so gross. Or maybe you'll find the extra cash. Or maybe your situation will change.

Or maybe it won't. But you'll be kicking ass on other changes, so don't worry about it. Do what you can. Challenge yourself. But don't make yourself crazy with it. If you slip up, learn from your mistake, let it go, and move on.

Just don't get frustrated and quit.

You are psyched about it right now. Keep the attitude and the rest will follow. I promise.

Wow. Does anyone else think I sound like eco-Richard Simmons right now? I think I'm gonna go don my rhinestone-studded tank top and too-short, stripey shorts and run around the neighborhood looking for folks who don't recycle.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Still Time to ConTribute!

The month is almost over and the Crunchy Tribute has raised more than $1800!

Super duper thanks go out to Green Bean and Arduous for organizing such a wonderful tribute to one of the most inspiring eco-bloggers of the day! And special thanks to all of you who donated time or money to Crunchy's very own charity, Goods4Girls.

If you haven't given yet, there's still time to join the Tribute to an Original! Let's see if we can't hit the $2,000 mark!!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Pursuit of Perfection

I'm getting a little too comfortable with this three-posts-a-week routine. Tonight I headed out the door with hubby for a night out on the town and totally forgot that I had a post due in the morning. I tensed up for a second, but then decided to just let it go and enjoy the evening. Because there's more to life than just being eco-friendly.

Shocked by my attitude? Don't be. Because if there's one HUGE lesson this uptight, suburbanite, self-proclaimed obsessive-compulsive perfectionist has learned over the past year is that life ain't perfect and neither am I.

Despite the images that come pouring into our televisions and onto the big screen, life is not a constant parade of beautiful, witty people in sparkling mansions. And that's ok. Because if everyone in the world lived the lifestyle of those fake people on tv, our planet would already be destroyed.

So before you begin the green journey, stop wishing you were even remotely like those carefully-crafted characters. They are living the impossible - and unsustainable - dream. For most, it is simply not attainable and it is definitely not good for our planet. Stop trying to live the lifestyle you think you should be living and just be happy with the things in life that bring you joy. Because once you let go of your need to meet the unrealistic expectations the media force down our collective throat, you will eliminate an assload of stress from your life. And you'll be glad when it's gone because in the coming year you'll learn a lot about real life...

There will be bugs in your compost. Your shirts will be crunchy. And might not be stain-free. Your child will be dirty. Your dishes will not sparkle. Your hair may be greasy. And your pits might be stinky. Your laundry basket might be broken. Your clothes might not be this year's fashion. You might not get to drive where ever you want, whenever you want. You might not get to have it all.

I could go on, but I don't want to ruin all the fun surprises.

Een if you don't start "going green", at least stop the constant pursuit of Hollywood's idea of perfection. Because if you're chasing a dream, you're missing out on life. And that would be a shame.

Join the discussion at our Yahoo! group.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Buddy System

Only one week left until our official Going Green kickoff. I hope you're getting yourself psyched up for a year of eco-minded lifestyle adjustments! I'm glad to see so many folks have joined the Yahoo! group and the discussions - and resulting hilarity - are getting into full swing.

So now, to fill the time, I'm going to be doling out some free advice. Things I've learned so far on my journey towards a smaller footprint. Not details about how to make daily changes - that's going to be the program itself - but rather, large concepts that will help you get started and stay motivated. Because just like diets, budgets, or adult learning classes, if you lose your motivation - odds are you'll quit. And then you'll be just as fat, poor and stupid as you were when you started. Figuratively speaking, of course.

I find the best motivator, for me, is to work with a buddy. Someone you can talk to, bounce ideas off of, borrow books from, or just commiserate with. Someone who is facing the same challenges you are in terms of buying locally, eating organic, composting, carpooling, freecycling.... all that fun stuff. Because as is the case with life in general, if you have a buddy, the challenges don't seem quite so insurmountable.

Get a buddy. Maybe it's your spouse (if so, consider yourself lucky!), your sister, friend, co-worker or your neighbor. It definitely helps if it's someone you see or speak with at least weekly. A "real" person, rather than just an internet icon.

So before the week is out, see if you can't convince someone to get green with you. It's always safer to swim with a buddy and you might just need a friend to cover your ass when you're building an illicit compost bin to dump your landlord in. (see, if you joined the Yahoo! group, you'd be laughing right now)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Well, lookey there, you need that list already!

Take Me To Your Leader

First off, I'm so glad to see the ball rolling at the Yahoo! group! Yeah, that looks weird, doesn't it? But it is Yahoo! and I'm excited! Hence, the double exclamation points!!

Anyway, today's pre-task will take you on an internet search. It shouldn't take too long - twenty, thirty minutes - tops, after which you can get back to your coffee, tea or appletini.

Head on out into the interwebs and locate the name, mailing address, email and phone number of every elected official who represents you. Or claims to, at least. Put that information in a Word document or other spot for quick future reference. You'll need it for the some of the challenges that lie ahead.

I know some of the information will change in the near future. Life is like that. It changes. You need to keep it updated. For Christ's sake if you can waste an hour each week mining for information about "Survivors" on far away islands, or checking which basketball team is going to the finals, you can certainly find one hour a year to update a document that lists the people who have the ability to spend your tax dollars.

I'll even give you some jumping off points:

US Citizens:

Australian Citizens:

Canadian Citizens:

British Citizens:

Well, according to my webstats, that should about cover it. If I missed you and your nationality, please leave a note in the comments! Also, if you find any other good resources, please feel free to list them either here or at the Yahoo! site.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Panty Bunching

So Mr. Bush has his panties all in a wad because no one has taken a giant (US-owned, of course) fucking drill out into the middle of the ocean to start drilling for oil.

"There is no excuse for delay," the president said in a Rose Garden statement.

Really? REALLY? Yet we have fucking eight years to delay implementation of an economy based on renewable, non-polluting resources. Eight years to delay adopting lower standards for emissions. Eight years to sit back and watch our oil-buddies get richer while the working man suffers. Eight years of fucking bull shit.

I agree, there is no excuse for delay. January 20, 2009 cannot come soon enough.

Let Me Jot That Down...

Ok all you GGWB's (there has GOT to be a better acronym for this little journey - someone leave one in the comments, please!) I've got another pre-task for you. This is a really easy one, I promise!

Grab a pencil and a notebook and put them in your car.


That's it.

I told you this would be easy.

Curious? I was too, but outside of this one time I got really drunk in college, I never really... Oh, you mean about the notebook. Ahem. yeah. The pencil and notebook are for recording your gas consumption. Every time you fill 'er up, be sure to write 'er down.

This will make it so much easier to track your usage. When I first started tracking my numbers for the Riot, I just took the dollar amount from my monthly budget and divided it by the average price of gas for the month. My how things change! With the constant increases in the price of gas, it's hard to calculate an accurate weekly average!

So we'll do things the old fashioned way instead. Every time you put gas in the car, write down the number of gallons (or litres or whatever) you guzzled. If you're a commuter, (yeah for you!) then write down the number of miles commuted and the type of transport used. And if you're a biker and/or walker, well, you're already ahead of the curve! Three points for you. :-)

Got other suggestions for tracking your gasoline consumption? Join the discussion at the Yahoo Group!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Learn more at

From The Boy

Wow. It's going to be weird just posting on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. So, during my adjustment period I'll just fill in with silly little anecdotes like this one.

Ethan, while shunning letters in preschool, has recently decided that spelling words is cool. And so, like all four year olds, he is CONSTANTLY asking me how to spell something, or to read him words we see. So we were in the car the other day, driving to the farmer's market and a big, white truck pulls up next to us. It has no pictures on the outside, just a company logo and some writing. Here's the conversation that transpired:

Ethan: Mommy, what's that say on the truck?

Mommy: That says "Five Star Food Service, Inc."

Ethan: Mommy, what do you think is in the truck?

Mommy: Well, judging from the name, I'd say food.

Ethan: Hmmm. I think it's ink.

Happy Tuesday. See you tomorrow.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Gearing Up for Going Green

OK folks, we've got two weeks to get prepared for the big, official "Go Green" kickoff, so let's get organized. Your first task (wow, how much does it suck that you have 'pre-tasks' before your actual tasks?) is to sign up at the Yahoo Group and introduce yourself. This, I feel, is especially important for those of you without blogs. It is a great way to interact with other like-minded folks and you'll get loads of great ideas from the other folks in the group. Finding a sense of community - even in an online forum - will help encourage you to keep going.

If you're not familiar with Yahoo Groups, let me give you a little 411. Yahoo Groups are simply private message boards that allow folks to post ideas or information. It's totally free, so don't worry - you don't pay any money to join. Of course, "free" on the internet usually means "lots of ads" and Yahoo is no exception. The good news is they're not pop-ups, just your standard clickables.

Once you join a group, you can select the method for viewing the posts. You can either have each new message sent to your email address as it's posted; have a "daily digest" of all the posts sent to your email; or have no messages sent to your email and just log into Yahoo Groups when you feel like checking in.

You can change your method at any time by clicking on "Edit Membership" (right under the giant Yahoo Ad and just above the header that says "Going_Green_With_Burbanmom"). This will take you to a separate page where you can edit your email address, change your message delivery option, your message option, and email options.

This is also where you go if you decide you want to Unsubscribe from the group. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and you'll see a button in the right hand corner that's labeled "Leave Group". I have been in so many groups where messages are posted that say "HELP!!! UNSUBSCRIBE ME!" Please know that YOU are the one who has the power to unsubscribe yourself! :-)

I don't have too many rules for the Yahoo Group. I hate to inhibit the free exchange of ideas by saying that you can't post off-topic or anything. I only ask you all do one thing: respect each other. No judging, no admonishing, no finger pointing. We're all here to try to do what we can to lighten our impact. We all have our hang-ups. Some folks can't buy from bulk bins because it skeeves them out. Others can't stand the cold and keep the furnace turned up a bit. Still others are carnivores through and through and find it difficult to give up their beef.

Get over it. As I constantly tell my kids, "Get your finger out of your nose and quit licking the window!"

Oh wait, that's something totally different.
I meant "stop worry about what your brother/sister is doing and worry about what you're doing". This is not a competition. Although it's great fun to see how your numbers compare with others, in the end it is the effort YOU put in to it. Do what you can and help others out with advice or suggestions, but do not deride.

That's it! Your first unofficial pre-task. See? Baby steps. We'll get there, folks.

Join the Going Green conversation...

Friday, June 13, 2008


I got an email the other day from a guy by the name of Shane Keats, an environmentally-minded Dad who has created a new cartoon series for kids called Heartwood USA. The series is about kids taking action to investigate and solve environmental mysteries and crimes to help their community. Anyhow, I checked it out and the pilot is hysterical. Take a minute and watch it - with kids, if you've got 'em.

Yeah, just off the top of my head, I can think of several cartoons I'd LOVE to see replaced with this one! I doubt McDonald's or Burger King would buy the rights to put Carson Heartwood Dolls in their Kids' Meals. Which only makes me love it more.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Grab Some Wood, Bub

Edson (AKA e4), over at Green, Blue, Brown sent me a very interesting article recently about the differences between cutting boards made from wood vs. those made from plastic. The article is from Ellen Sandbeck's book Green Housekeeping.

The article states that researchers at the University of Wisconsin had discovered that wooden cutting boards are safer for food preparation than plastic cutting boards. That's right -- safer. A 1993 press release I found online confirmed the article. Here's what the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Research Division at the University of Wisconsin-Madison had to say:

For decades now, cooks in homes and restaurants have been urged to use plastic rather than wood cutting boards in the name of food safety. The fear is that disease causing bacteria – salmonella from raw chicken, for example – will soak into a cutting board and later contaminate other foods cut on the same surface and served uncooked, such as salad ingredients. It’s become an article of faith among “experts” that plastic cutting boards are safer than wood for food preparation because, as the thinking goes, plastic is less hospitable to bacteria.

It seems reasonable, but it just ain’t so, according to two scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Food Research Institute.

Dean O. Cliver and Nese O. Ak, food microbiologists in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, have found that in some as yet unknown way wooden cutting boards kill bacteria that survive well on plastic boards.

“This flies in the face of prevailing wisdom”, says Cliver, “It isn’t what I expected. Our original objectives were to learn about bacterial contamination of wood cutting boards to find a way to decontaminate the wood so it would be almost as safe as plastic. That’s not what happened.”

Cliver is quick to point out that cooks should continue to be careful when they handle foods and wash off cutting surfaces after they cut meat or chicken that may be contaminated with bacteria.

“Wood may be preferable in that small lapses in sanitary practices are not as dangerous on wood as on plastic,” he says. “This doesn’t mean you can be sloppy about safety. It means you can use a wood cutting board if that is the kind you prefer. It certainly isn’t less safe than plastic and appears to be more safe.”

Cliver and Ak began by purposely contaminating wood and plastic boards with bacteria and then trying to recover those bacteria alive from the boards. They also tested boards made from several different species of trees and four types of plastic. They incubated contaminated boards overnight at refrigerator and room temperatures and at high and typical humidity
levels. They tested several bacteria – Salmonella, Listeria and enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli – known to produce food poisoning.

The results consistently favored the wooden boards, often by a large margin over plastic boards, according to Cliver. The scientists found that three minutes after contaminating a board that 99.9 percent of the bacteria on wooden boards had died, while none of the bacteria died on plastic. Bacterial numbers actually increased on plastic cutting boards held overnight
at room temperature, but the scientists could not recover any bacteria from wooden boards treated the same way.

Huh. Well slap my ass and call me Sally, it looks like plastic is NOT the 'be all / end all' when it comes to sanitary. Who knew?

I guess can stop using my one plastic cutting board that I've always kept specifically for use with poultry, beef and pork. Turns out my meat likes a little wood.

Thanks for the great article, Edson!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Shallow End of The Green Pool

Wow. I cannot believe I have blogging for a year now. Well, almost a year. I signed up for my blog a year ago, but then it took me ten days before I actually got around to writing my first post. Sheesh. That's so me, isn't it?

Not much for jumping right in, I prefer to test the waters by dipping my big toe in first. Then I bitch and moan for a while about how cold it is. Slowly I will step down the first step and let the water lap my cankles, all the while making that contorted "holymotherf'erthisissomeseriouslycoldwater" look with my face. Another five minutes will pass before I actually get the knees wet. And thus it continues ad nauseum, until, half an hour later, I'm actually up to my armpits and conceding that it's not really that bad, but there's no way I'm going under.

And then I do. And I'm just as soaking wet as the kid next to me who dove straight in.

Kind of like this Planeteering stuff. When I started out a year ago, I was reading various eco-blogs and I thought, "well I can try to get a little greener, but I'll never be as green as these folks". But I made a small change, almost every single day and look what happened. I do believe I became one of those "green folks". I'm not saying I'm like No Impact Man or Sharon Astyk, because I'm not. I have not dedicated my life's work to saving the planet. In fact, I barely dedicate a few hours a week to it.

And yet, to look at the Riot Numbers I posted earlier this week, it would appear that with making slight adjustments to my lifestyle, I have definitely made a difference. I have markedly decreased my consumption of gasoline, electricity, heating fuel, water and goods. I have more than halved the amount of garbage our household sends to the landfill and I am contributing to our local, sustainable farming community on a weekly basis.

Lo and behold, I have officially gone green. And now I think I'd like to help others do the same.

I know a lot of you are relatively new to my blog and weren't around when I quit using grocery bags or switched to wind power. Many of you asked if I could review the changes I've made over the past year so that you could learn from my successes and failures.

What I heard: "Less work than coming up with a new change every day".


So here's what I'm thinking:

If there are any folks out there who just can't take the plunge into the One Tonne CO2 Lifestyle , I will lead you to the pool and help you stick your toe in. Together, we'll make three changes per week towards a greener lifestyle. And we'll have fun doing it.

Starting July 1st, I'll be kicking off a brand new Step-A-Day Program for eco-wannabes. I'll be rehashing all my old changes, providing a year's worth of insight and information, so that your path might not be as rocky or as steep as the one I took. I'm not saying I have all the answers because I don't. And I'm definitely not an expert - on anything. But I have been there. I have felt overwhelmed by the plight of the planet and unsure of how or what I could do to help.

If you're interested in playing along at home, I've set up a companion Yahoo! site that will let you share ideas, commiserate with others or just hang out in the eco-pool. You can join here.

I'll be providing more information on how the whole program will work (cuz yeah, I don't even have it all figured out yet) in the next couple of weeks. I'm envisioning three posts per week(Monday, Wednesday, Friday) which will, hopefully spark discussion and debate at the Yahoo site.

I'm planning on making each change with a varying difficulty level, so that anyone can play along. For example, if the post is about CFLs and you've already swapped all your lightbulbs at home, then you would move up a difficulty level and will instead donate CFL's to a charity, or convince your mother-in-law to switch, or find a local CFL take-back location and promote it. That way, no matter what your level of greenification, you should be able to participate in almost every change.

It's still very much a work-in-progress and I'd love to hear any feedback you have! So either leave a note in the comments or sign on to the Yahoo Group and tell me what you think.

And, of course, thanks for all your support over the past year. It truly means a lot to me. Hope to see you around the green pool!

Yours in Bloggerspace,

- Burbanmom

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Make A Flickr Mosaic

Saw this on both Leslie's blog and Mr. G's blog and had to make my own. A little bit of fun during "rest time"...

Here is what to do if you would like to create your own mosaic:
  • Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
  • Using only the first page, pick an image.
  • Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd’s mosaic maker.

1. What is your first name?

2. What is your favorite food?

3. What high school did you go to?

4. What is your favorite color?

5. Who is your celebrity crush?

6. Favorite drink?

7. Dream vacation?

8. Favorite dessert?

9. What you want to be when you grow up?

10. What do you love most in life?

11. One Word to describe you.

12. Your flickr name.

My answers are these: 1. Erin 2. Seafood 3. APW 4. Pink 5. Jason Bateman 6. Milkshake 7. Beach 8. Creme Brulee 9. Patient 10. My kids 11.Trusting 12. My Flickr name was a bust, so I just used "Coe"

1. Tennessee Fall Quarry, 2. a la Valenciana, 3. Spiral, 4. Side Up, 5. arrested_development_cast_01, 6. Milk Splash, 7. Beach, 8. 73: creme brulee, 9. Rohan, 10. Children, 11. Tinkerbell, 12. Coe

Monday, June 9, 2008

A Riot Iz An Ungly Ting...

...undt, I tink, that it is chust about time ve had vun.

That's a quote from one of my all-time favorite movies, Young Frankenstein. You gotta love a good Mel Brooks flick and how can you possibly miss with a cast of comediens like Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Peter Boyle, Cloris Leachman and Terri Garr? You can't. If you've never seen the movie, go grab a copy at Blockbuster or the Library and watch it this weekend. I promise you will pee your pants. I just peed a little thinking about it.

Moving on.

It's been a while since I updated my Riot numbers and I like to keep them posted, if for no other reason, than to make sure I look at them. If you don't know what the hell I'm talking about (and that happens a LOT. Probably more often than it should, in fact), then you can learn about the Riot for Austerity here. If you're too lazy to click the link, I'll recap:

The Riot for Austerity is a group of eco-minded folks who are attempting to reduce their emissions to 90% of what the Average American uses. It is, to say the least, a daunting task, but it has helped me to stay focused on my sustainability goals, as both the Yahoo Group and the R4A Website have oodles of encouraging folks and helpful information. The Riot breaks down our emissions into seven categories: Gasoline, Electricity, Heating Gas, Garbage, Water, Consumer Goods and Food. My personal numbers are based on a family of four.

So, without further ado, as there's been a lot of pre-ado already, here are my numbers for the month of May 2008:

Gasoline: 28 Gallons - 17% of the Average American
Electricity: 434 kWh - 12% of the Average American
Hot Water/Heating Gas: 15 Ccf - 18% of the Average American
Garbage (excludes my recycling): 10 pounds - 8% of the Average American
Water: 4 Ccf - 25% of the Average American
Consumer Goods: $485 - 58% of the Average American
Food: 50% Local / 25% Dry Bulk / 25% Other

But here's what I've really been waiting to see... how my numbers compare with myself. Not my other personality (shut up / no YOU shut up), but the oblivious me of one year ago and the new and enlightened me of now. Let's take a peek:

Gasoline - Down 43% from last year
Electricity - Down 45% from last year
Heating / HW Gas - Down 12% from last year
Garbage - Down 40% from last year
Water - Down 70% from last year
Consumer Goods - Down 50% from last year
Food - Eating much more locally and lovin' every minute of it!

Wow. Not to pat myself on the back or anything, but I've come a long way, baby. There's definitely room for improvement, but those numbers aren't too shabby for someone who lives in the 'burbs with two toddlers and a hubby, none of whom are actively pursuing a greener lifestyle. So all the reductions you see are the result of one woman who simply decided that she wanted to try to be a little kinder to the environment, and have a little fun along the way.

I'd say that's worthy of a little celebration. Let's go huv a yittle sponge cake undt some vine...

I'm Still A Bookworm

Which is Better Than Being a Tapeworm

June is shaping up to be a pretty crazy time here at Casa Burban, what with adjusting to the kids being out of school, birthdays galore, Ren Faire season gearing up, swim lessons starting and me approaching my bloggiversary. I'm going to be super-duper-ultra-extra-deluxe busy this month, so I decided to limit myself to just one challenge. And since I'm also a super-duper-ultra-extra-deluxe lazy slug, I chose Green Bean's I'm Still A Bookworm Challenge.

I thoroughly enjoyed last month's Be A Bookworm Challenge where I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I've stolen some cool ideas from the book for use here :-).

This month, however, I'll be shifting gears from increasing local food consumption to limiting personal consumption as I read David Wann's Simple Prosperity: Finding Real Wealth in a Sustainable Lifestyle. I'm hoping it's not like Affluenza, which, in my opinion, went a little overboard with the cheesy influenza comparisons. Actually, I'm hoping it has more insight and new ideas, something along the lines of Deep Economy by Bill McKibben.

Once again, Green Bean, thanks for the great challenge! I'm off to go read a chapter right now!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Ode to a Crazy Mother-Clucker

A Tribute to Crunchy Chicken

Last week, La Crunch announced her retirement from the blogosphere. I immediately wrote up a short little farewell post in her honor, thanking her for all she's done to inspire her readers. Three days later, she reneged.

But that's Crunchy. She likes to keep you on your toes.

Well right back at ya, Crunchmiester. Because retiring or not, you're getting a tribute. So there, dammit.

If you don't read Crunchy's blog (and I'll be amazed if you don't - friggin' crawl out from under that rock already) you should. She is insightful, humorous, intelligent and pretty crafty with artsy-fartsy photoshop stuff. And, she is an amazingly generous person.

This past Februrary, she wrote a post about how Tampax and Always were donating disposable pads and tampons to young women in Africa, which allowed them to stay in school. Crunchy pondered whether this "charitable act" was entirely altruistic, or perhaps just a way to hook future consumers. And rather than just bitch about the greed of corporations, she actually got off her ass and DID SOMETHING.

Crunchy created a non-profit organization called Goods 4 Girls, that provides reusable pads to these young girls. Thereby addressing, not only their personal hygiene problems, but the ecological impacts of the solution as well.

Amazing stuff. She sees a problem. She devises a remedy. She implements a solution. She doesn't whine, or bitch, or wait for someone else to do it. She sees a need and she selflessly fills it. Don't you wish more folks were like that? Don't you kind of wish you were like that?

Well now's your chance. Hop on over to the Crunchy Tribute site and find out how you can do something right now. Quick! Before that rock falls back on you! ;-)

- 'Burbs

Plastic - Friend or Foe?

So obviously last month's challenge got me thinking a lot about plastic. Mostly, I was amazed to discover that this simple polymer that was first discovered less than 100 years ago is now so ensconced in our daily lives.

Plastic is so pervasive it is difficult, if not damn near impossible, to avoid in day-to-day life. It is the packaging around our foods, the gadgets in our kitchen, the fibers in our carpet, the decals on our shirt, the toys our children play with, the skins on our electronics, the dashboards in our cars, the decorations in our homes. It is the bench we sit on, the floor we stand on and the mattress we sleep on.

Not only that, it is in our landfills, strewn by our roadsides, and littering our oceans. It is choking fish, suffocating birds and poisoning children. Why, then, do we keep creating, purchasing and using it?

  • It's cheap. Sure it's cheap now, but not for long... plastic is a polymer that is derived from oil. Oil prices, as we all know, are skyrocketing out of control and, IMHO, it won't be long before the price of plastic follows suit.

  • It lasts forever. Yes and no. The individual molecules do take a very, very long time to break down, but the toy itself? In my experience the toy (or whatever the object is) generally falls to pieces, breaks or simply gets discarded in a relatively short period of time.

  • It's convenient. Well, you got me there. Some of it really is.

So if it's so nasty, why is my post titled "Plastic - friend or foe"?

Plastic is bad, I know, but does it occassionally serve a greater purpose? I'm not talking plastic tubing used in hospitals to save lives -- that's a no-brainer in my book. If I've got a choice between a flexible plastic catheter or a straw fashioned from recycled aluminum, I'll opt for the non-recyclable #5, thankyouverymuch. But here I'm talking about day-to-day plastic that we use like garbage bags, food packaging and, oh, I dunno... maybe ziplocks.

Example: I have begun purchasing as much locally grown produce as possible, in order to reduce the amount of oil used to transport my food. This works out great in the summer, when bounty is at its peak, but what do I do in the winter? The simple answer from a "food miles" perspective -- to preserve as much food as possible, either by canning or freezing. The most efficient way to freeze these items? In a Ziplock bag. They take up minimal space and I can easily remove most of the air from the bag, resulting in less spoilage.

So does that make Ziplocks good or bad? Can you tolerate my use if I label them all and reuse them next year? What about for two years? Five?

And what about those yogurt cups? You know, the non-recyclable (in my area, at least) #5 plastic? Stonyfield yogurt did a whole buttload of research on the issue of using various packaging materials (AKA a Life Cycle Assessment) and found that "...the lightest-weight package, per unit of delivered end product, is generally the lowest-impact product". This would indicate that lightweight plastic actually beats out heavier materials such as glass, when it comes to environmental friendliness.

In fact, the Stonyfield study goes on to say that "The concept of source reduction-reducing the amount of material in a product-has been overshadowed by the tremendous enthusiasm to recycle. Recycling is very important, but it can be more environmentally advantageous to reduce the amount of material generated in the first place. The solid waste hierarchy teaches us to first reduce, then reuse, and finally recycle."

"After examining our options (including glass, poly-coated paper, and plastic), we chose a lightweight plastic. Glass, which is widely recycled and made from recycled material, was rejected as the environmental costs of transporting the heavy material outweigh the benefits. The energy (fossil fuels) used over the entire life of the glass package for its manufacture and transport exceeds the energy that goes into the manufacturing and transporting of a plastic container."

So, personally, I think I'll continue my current love/hate relationship with platics. I'll still avoid as many disposable plastics as humanly possible. I'll definitely shun polystyrene and disposable bags, and I'll opt for more durable toys for my kids, but I don't think I necessarily view all plastic as evil. It does have its advantages. Although, I do think that with the rise in oil prices, it may be a moot point soon.

Who knows. Maybe when oil hits $200 a barrel, McDonalds will start filling their Happy Meals with little wooden puzzles instead of plasticrap. We can only hope.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Extreme Eco Challenge Wrap Up

As you know, I participated in Crunchy Chicken's Extreme Eco Throwdown last month. Out of the seven suggested changes, I, of course, selected the easiest - to give up plastics. And I didn't even do that whole heartedly.

Instead, I took the lazy way out and simply made my daily changes be ones in which I found plastic alternatives to everyday problems. Also, I managed to turn a month-long commitment into a scant 17 modifications. Because I'm mathletic like that.

Anyhow, along the way I actually got a few questions from folks wondering how this or that worked out. Since I'm generally too lazy to answer comments as they come in, I thought I'd give you the low down on all those plastic-free adjustments.

1. Swapping My Neutrogena Toner for Burt's Bees Garden Tomato Toner - Although I did end up with a nice little breakout this month, I must be honest and tell you it had a lot less to do with my toner than it did with the 40 pounds of leftover Easter Candy I found hidden in the back of the pantry. The toner did a fine job of clearing away the excess dirt that soap just doesn't get. All in all, this change is a keeper.

2. Switching from Traditional Toothpaste to Baking Soda - LOVE this change! I improved the toothpaste recipe by adding some water and a generous amount of peppermint extract. I keep it all in an old glass spice jar and it works like a freakin' charm. This is also a keeper.

3. Making My Own Whipped Cream Instead of Buying the Stuff in the Tub - Great stuff! I made it all fancy a couple of weeks ago by adding powdered sugar (instead of granulated) and a couple drops of red food coloring. Made a nice pink dip for my strawberries. The only downside to this change is that I tend to eat a little too much of the stuff and give myself a nice case of the lactose-ly challenged stomach cramps. Keeper, but in moderation.

4. Choosing Pencils Over Pens - I like this change a lot, but I'm thinking I need to invest in one of those "old school" style, crank-handle pencil sharpeners. Because the plastic piece of shit sharpener that the boy has just ain't cutting it - so to speak. Keeper, but with a real sharpener.

5. Switching From a Plastic Disposable Razor to a Safety Razor - This requires a bit more finesse than one would expect. I have the pits down no problem, but find that to get a really close shave on the legs I need to draw a bath and concentrate. It's all in the angle, I think. Hopefully I'll get the hang of it soon and will be able to shave in the shower, but for now I need to take my time, lather up and pay attention. Oh, and maybe keep a Preserve razor in the shower as back up. Just in case. Keeper, but with backup plan.

6. Using Home-Frothed Shaving Cream - OK, so the truth comes out. The only reason I want to draw a bath to shave is so I can use my super-cool shaving cream kit. Hell, it's all the fun of making whipped cream, without the gas. Keeper.

7. Using Biodegradable, Non-Plastic Trash Bags - Oh the Controversy! Holy crap, who knew people felt so passionate about their plastic bags?!?! Anyhow, while I'm still on the fence about using corn as a plastic alternative, I think that bio-bags are a nice reminder that, by thinking outside the box, industry can and will find ways to reduce all of our dependency on oil. However, as we all know, the BEST solution is to cut down on the amount of trash produced - which I have done and continue to do. Verdict? Jury Still Out. Unfortunately, I bought a box of thirty gigabillion, because that got me free shipping. So I guess it's a keeper - until I run out at least. Maybe by then there will be an even better alternative available.

8. Switching from Plastic Sponges to Cellulose - I really like the sponges, I just really hated the price. I will definitely look for a way to either source these locally or buy in bulk. Or better yet, make the ones I currently own last forever. Keeper.

9. Buying Toilet Paper Without Plastic Packaging - Love this change! Something so nice about opening the vanity doors to see rows and rows of neatly stacked, paper wrapped toilet paper. Yeah, I know... cloth wipes. Just not there yet, folks. Keeper.

10. Using Paper Tape for My Packages - A bit of a PITA, but the satisfaction I get from not having to use plastic tape makes it all worth while. Plus? I found out there's a dispenser I can get that will wet the paper as I pull it out. It's a hundred sheckles so I won't be buying it anytime soon... but it's nice to know it's out there. Keeper.

11. Switching to an All-Natural Deodorant Stone - 95 here today. With high humidity. Outside most of the day. Got a little stinky. Reapplied and de-stinkified. And you know what? Even if it turns out I can only use it for nine months out of the year, isn't that still better than using the plastic-encased aluminum slab of death year round? Keeper.

12. Switching from Laundry Powder to Soap Nuts - Sucked. The nuts kept falling out of the little bag and they would stick to the clothes. Not to mention that I didn't really like the idea of shipping in my laundry detergent from Indonesia. BUT, thanks to the comments from my fabulous readers, I found this new detergent called Charlie's Soap and so far it's kicking ass. Just one tablespoon does a whole load. I also used it to clean up some mysterious crayon marks on the carpets and it worked like a charm. No plastic scoop, it's manufactured right in North Carolina and it's eco-friendly. Great job, Charlie. Passing on the nuts but keeping Charlie.

13. Using Only Beeswax or Soy Candles - I got a soy wax candle at the farmer's market and it does just what a candle should. I don't particularly care for the "flavor" I picked. I deviated from my normal buying pattern and opted for "ocean breeze". It's too perfumey for me and doesn't smell like food. Next time I'll get the vanilla. But that's not the candle's fault. Keeper.

14. Replacing Liquid Soap With Bar Soap in the Bathrooms - I'm using up the last of my Dr. Bronner's peppermint scented castille oil but then plan on switching all the soaps over to handsoap. I found out Mary has a bunch of cute designs, including the hands, Celtic knots and mini goat heads. What's not to love about that? Keeper.

15. Getting Ice Cream in a Cone or in My Own Dish - I already f'd up on this one. We went out for ice cream this weekend and I forgot to bring our own dishes. As predicted, the girl got a dish and the boy got a milkshake and I single-handedly ruined the planet by being a crappy environmentalist. I don't deserve any ice cream. Loser.

16. Making My Own Mozzarella - Now that the hot weather has hit us like a ton of bricks, I'm not even thinking about turning the oven on to make pizza, so why would I need mozzarella? I wish I had the patience to make hard cheeses like cheddar or jack, but come on... eight months?!?!? This girl needs instant gratification. The change has inspired me to find a local cheese artisan and buy all my cheese from them. No luck so far, but I'll let you know if/when I find one. Keeper, when I feel doing something fun, but not an everyday kind of change.

17. Buying Cupcakes Sans the Plastic Clamshell - Got the cupcakes and they were not only cute but delicious! I picked them up in a baker's cardboard box and they survived the ride home without any Kitties Hello-ing my car floorboards. Who knew we could live so well without plastic cupcake partitions? Keeper.

There you have it. The nuts and bolts of my eco-throwdown. Not life-altering adjustments but small steps taken toward a "life less plastic". But I think the real lesson was not in the day-to-day but in how we view the ubiquitous plastic in our lives. More on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Happy Birthday To Me!

Wow. It's amazing how much things change. Thirty six years ago I was brought forth into this world as an eatin', poopin', screamin' machine and now....

It's amazing how much things change.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Still enjoying time with the family, be back soon!

Keep on Rockin' In an Oil-Free World

I've always liked Neil Young, but now I like him even more. "They" may have Killed the Electric Car, but he's helping to bring it back. Check out this article on CNN...

Rock on, Neil. Rock on.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Family Time

Hey all, hope you're having a nice weekend. Just wanted to let you know that I've got family in town to help celebrate the girl's birthday, so I won't be posting the next couple of days. Have a good one, I'll be back online soon with Riot updates, the Eco-Throwdown Wrap Up, New Bookworm Selection, a Convoluted Argument for Buying Local, my Blogiversary Post, a new year-long challenge, and the secret to a happy life.

Wow, that sounds like a lot of writing. Maybe I'll just do the first six, since the last one is so painfully apparent.

- 'Burbs