2009 - Our Daily Green

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Handheld video game green

Over the summer, I wrote about the appalling amount of electronic waste in our environment. As gadgets become upgraded and obsolete, our landfills become increasingly toxic.

Two young men in New York have found a unique and heartwarming solution to the problem of hand held video games. Games For Heroes collects and sends them to our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I had the extreme honor of interviewing Peter Gallagher, one of the founders of the charity. When asked about their inspiration for the charity, Peter explained,
"Growing up here in Westchester, NY, there's a lot of hatred towards the war and unfortunately therefore lack of support for the troops. Since many of these soldiers are my age and slightly older, I felt a connection with them. Whether one supports the war or not, there should not be a lack of support for the young troops. After speaking with some troops I learned that the most requested item by them was handheld video games to kill the boredom and take their mind off the terror. I started it with my friend Jack because there wasn't a unique charity for this cause."
The full article can be read on my Examiner column. Young people like this doing something so simple and heartfelt gives me tremendous hope for the future. I hope you'll be able to help their charity this year.

Have a wonderful holiday!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Plastic recycling green

I conducted an informal survey this week on my Facebook page. I asked my friends how many people participated in curbside recycling programs and what their municipality collected.

The answers are as varied as my friends themselves. Some communities require cans, bottles, paper be separated, others take everything in one big bin. Some only accept certain types of material, and some communities do not even offer curbside recycling. The tragedy is that recycling should be simple and straightforward. Everywhere I've lived for the past 15 years had a different policy. One city accepted cardboard, another did not. One place took newspapers, but not magazines. Some cities took phone books, etc. etc. Nearly every place I lived only accepted certain kinds of plastic.

Across the board, the seemingly most confusing aspect of recycling is what to do with plastic bottles. The ubiquitous plastic bottle with a number stamped inside chasing arrows to indicate... what? What exactly do those numbers mean and why do we need bifocals to figure out the proper way to dispose of a plastic bottle?

The numbers represent the resin used to make the bottle. 96% of all bottles are either #1 (polyethylene terephthalate/PETE) or #2 (high density polyethylene/HDPE) which is good news since the market for those bottles is robust. #1 and #2 are thermoplastic polymers which means they can be reheated and reformed again. Other plastic polymers undergo a chemical change when they are heated and become rigid, making them difficult to recycle.

The lids on #1 and #2 bottles are not the same plastic, as indicated by their rigid nature. They need to be removed or the mixed plastics will contaminate the plastic during the remelting process. Also, bottles with lids contain air which keeps the bale from being properly crushed for recycling. 4800 #1 bottles make a bale of plastic for recycling. The small rings under the lids are not enough plastic to cause damage, so they may remain intact. Aveda salons accept the #5 (polypropylene PP) lids for cleaning and reuse. Whole Foods supermarkets participates in a #5 recycling program that accepts all #5 materials, including yogurt containers and drinking straws, not just lids, for recycling by Preserve company, which makes toothbrushes and kitchenware.

Other plastics like #3 (polyvinyl chloride/PVC), #4 (low-density polyethylene/ LDPE), and #6 (polystyrene/PP) are more rare and difficult to recycle. Earth911 has a search feature by zipcode to find where to recycle these plastics if they are not accepted in your local program.

Companies like RecycleBank simplify the recyling process a great deal by accepting all items for recycling in one simple bin, then paying rewards to the consumer based on pounds recycled. However, since recycling policies vary from community to community, an educated consumer is our planet's best friend.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cassette Tape Green

A follow up post to the Suspect Musical Taste Green  post 

During the late 70s and 80s, the transition vinyl to tapes occurred. Some folks even still have 8 track tapes lurking in their storage areas. Our music became portable and every high schooler wanted a Walkman and every car had a tape player. We mixed tapes of our favorite songs and instead of trading an MP3s, we gave each other tunes tapes.

A drawback of tapes was that they got tangled easily, at which point the owner had a mile of spaghetti-like magnetic ribbon to try to rewind. Today, cassette tapes and their wider cousins, VCR video tapes have been rendered obsolete by digital music and blu-ray discs.

One crafy blogger, RecycleCindy, has turned the innards of tapes into a sort of "yarn" for knitting and crocheting. Her creations are simply gorgeous, and she includes instructions on her site. Pictured is an evening bag crocheted from cassette tape and yarn. She also has patterns for doll clothes and tote bags. Take a look at her store and blog, you will be in awe.

Another fun use for cassette tapes is a retro design lamp, such as the one featured on the Technbob blog. The designers glue old cassettes into a visually appealing design and use a cool burning light source to keep the cassettes from melting. Lamp kits can be found at any craft store, or if you're truly crafty, just recycle an old lamp! This light would be a great addition to a media or rec room. What a conversation piece!

The ideas are only limited by your imagination. What about a cuff bracelet, out of a warped cassette case? Or a wallet? With a little imagination, so much can be done with old cassette tapes to make a uniquely green statement.

Happy Green Crafting!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

350.org Green

350.org was founded by U.S. author Bill McKibben, who wrote one of the first books on global warming for the general public, and a team of university friends.

The number 350 signifies the safe upper limit of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Currently the number is 387, but can be changed with some simple choices.

In 2007 a campaign called Step It Up organized over 2,000 rallies at iconic places in all 50 states. Their creative actions - from skiers descending a melting glacier to divers hosting an underwater action - helped convince many political leaders, including then Senator Barack Obama, to adopt our common call to action: cutting carbon 80% by 2050.

This year, the day is October 24, Saturday.
350 video

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Suspect Musical Taste Green

25% off recycled CD and DVD sleeves How many of my readers have crates of vinyl albums? How many progressives are totally modern with their music and have gone the completely digital route?

While it's easy to commend yourself for environmentally happy musical taste and plug in your digital music dock to dance like nobody's watching, somewhere lurking in the hidden recesses of attics and basements are the ghosts of music past.

Such media need not be relegated to thrift store obsolescence or even worse, garbage dump filler. Instead, with a bit of ingenuity, it can become funky fun art and decor.

One of the most creative uses for old records came from my friend Ryan. He and his roommate used album covers to wallpaper their apartment wall. If you notice, they also used the records themselves as decor on the far right side of the photo.

But what else can you do with old records? Why not warp and shape them into funky serving bowls or plant holders? The turntable hole already serves as a drainage hole. Several websites offer simple instructions for more detail, but in essence, place an old album over an oven proof bowl and bake it in a preheated 200 degree oven for 8-10 minutes. These bowls also make great serving dishes for snacks at a party.

Embrace your sense of ingenuity and respect for the earth. Take those old albums out of hiding and turn them into something that makes a true statement about all you once loved.

Rather than hide what you listened to (yeah, I've got some Tony Orlando and Barry Manilow lurking in my pile), I say we recycle and enjoy the ghosts of music past. That's a song I can sing like nobody's listening, but I hope you are!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Consciously Frugal: The Many Wonders of Coffee

Gevalia Coffee offer
Great deal on coffee! 
Just a caveat, if you consume the coffee too late in the day, you will be reading and posting about it in the middle of the night! (smiling)

This is more borrowed wisdom from my fellow blog sister over at Consciously Frugal. I think she has more ideas than carter has little pills. (something my dad used to say).


Friday, September 18, 2009

Arsenic and lead found in many cars and child car seats

On September 16th 2009, the Ecology Center released its third annual report on the chemicals found in cars as well as child car seats. Over 700 vehicles, from the 1980’s to 2010 model year vehicles were tested for chemicals let off from the interior of the vehicle, including the steering wheel, dashboard, armrests, seats, and carpet.

to

Arsenic and lead found in many cars and child car seats

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fighting childhood obesity with healthy eating and exercise

Fighting childhood obesity with healthy eating and exercise
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A recent report from the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council suggests several green solutions to the growing problem with childhood obesity.
Local jurisdictions can play an instrumental role in the fight against childhood obesity by encouraging environments that make promote healthier diets and more movement/exercise, said a committee of health experts. The increase in childhood obesity and the costs associated with obesity underscore the urgency for prevention efforts at the community level. In the past 35 years -- less than half a lifetime --American adolescents who are obese has over tripled, rising from 5% to nearly 18%.
childhood obesity
With such a high percentage of children and adolescents between the ages of two and 19 obese,  the prevalence is so high that it could reduce the life expectancy of today's generation of children and diminish the overall quality of their lives. Local governments have an opportunity to play a critical role in making it easier for children to eat healthy diets and move more. The 2009 report Local Government Actions to Prevent Childhood Obesity presents a menu of suggested action steps for local government officials to weigh in their efforts to prevent childhood obesity in their locality.
The report cites 10 examples of local efforts to promote healthy eating and physical activity. They range from a comprehensive obesity prevention initiative -- involving walking trails, a new fitness center, and breastfeeding promotion -- to a city law requiring calorie information on restaurant menus, to a fitness index that helps organizations monitor their progress in meeting dietary and fitness goals.
In their 2006 report,  The Future of ChildrenSallis and Glanz  suggested clear policy implications. People who have access to safe places to be active, neighborhoods that are walkable, and local markets that offer healthy food choices are likely to be more active and to eat more healthful food—two behaviors that can lead to good health and may help avoid obesity. Increasing the number of healthful, affordable food choices in a variety of food outlets is a complementary strategy that may be largely driven by commercial considerations. In this instance, public pressure and consumer demand can make a difference. Researchers may not find a single “smoking gun.” It is more likely that many built environment variables will show a strong cumulative effect on diet, physical activity, and weight status in children.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Consciously Frugal: Cutting Back & Spending More

Since I haven't posted for you in a few days here, I thought I would share one of my favorite economical and green blogger's posts. I hope you enjoy the writing and ideas as much as I do!

Consciously Frugal: Cutting Back & Spending More: "We've come to expect that everything 'should' be cheap, particularly if we're frugal. We're so disassociated from the process of production due to outsourcing that we forget there are living, breathing human beings making the products we consume and a planet that can only give so much."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sugar Consumption Green

A recent media release from the American Heart Association recommends that people cut intake of added sugars. The August 24, 2009 statement published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association gives consumers more detailed guidance by recommending an upper limit on added-sugars intake, recommending no more than 100 calories/daily for women and 150 for men from sugar...

for more info?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Controlling food allergies

Could the recent increase in food allergies be related to genetically modified foods? Read more...

Food allergy awareness in schools
(originally published on Examiner.com)

Our Daily Green is affiliated with The Allergy Kit.

Cleveland Green Parenting Examiner

In any given classroom of 25 students, one of them is likely to have a food allergy. Food allergies are on the rise. With school beginning, parents often receive lists of approved snacks to send into the classroom so a life threatening allergy is not triggered. Lunchrooms have peanut butter free tables and students carry Epi-pens. Clearly food allergies can be quite serious.
photo by: thadz /stock.xchng
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 3 million children now have food allergies. Peanut allergies have doubled and kids seem to be taking longer to outgrow milk and egg allergies.
The most commonly listed foods that trigger allergic reactions are milk, eggs, peanuts/nuts, fish/shellfish, and wheat, as well as assorted additives, dyes and sulphites.  
The cause of food allergies is not completely known, but there is quite a bit of research being conducted in this area. Part of the problem is that food supplies are modified everywhere along the chain.
As renowned nutrition writer Michael Pollan explains in a 2007 NY Times article,  Unhappy Meals, 
 "... cow’s milk did not start out as a nutritious food for humans; in fact, it made them sick until humans who lived around cows evolved the ability to digest lactose as adults. ...“Health” is, among other things, the byproduct of being involved in these sorts of relationships in a food chain — when the health of one link of the food chain is disturbed, it can affect all the creatures in it. When the soil is sick or in some way deficient, so will be the grasses that grow in that soil and the cattle that eat the grasses and the people who drink the milk."
In other words, the adaptations (both natural and man made) that occur along the food chain could be the very reason allergies develop. Genetically modified crops are both directly and indirectly in the food supply, either through the plant supply or the animals that eat such plants. Genetic engineering may one day make food more nutritious and abundant, but it also could introduce allergens into foods where none existed before. Companies are supposed to test whether their genetically engineered foods contain any new proteins that behave like allergens.
There are certain criteria that we look at—such as heat stability, enzyme stability, and whether it’s related to a known allergen—that tell us if a protein is likely to provoke an allergic reaction,” says Mount Sinai’s Hugh Sampson.  "That process, if carried out carefully, should exclude almost all allergens, though nobody can say for sure that a new protein won’t be a problem.” 
Ohio has now joined a growing list of states to enact legislation calling for the creation of food allergy management guidelines for schools. A provision of the state budget bill calls on the board of education of each city, local and vocational school district, along with the governing authority of each charter school, to establish a written food allergy management policy. The provision states that the policy is to be developed in consultation with parents, school nurses, other school employees, school volunteers, students, and community members.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

School Fundraising Green

With school starting in many districts around the greater Cleveland area, parents are not only preparing for reading and writing but also for the inevitable onslaught of school fundraisers their children will bring home to sell.

One company, TerraCycle has a developed a unique fundraiser through that involves recycling common lunch box wrappers, such as cookie, energy bars, or juice pouches...

to

Fundraising for schools with trash

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Healthy School Lunches Green

(this article originally was published on the Examiner, Healthy school lunches and the child nutrition act)

One of the most challenging things a parent has to do is nourish their offspring. Encouraging them to eat their vegetables and clean their plate is a parental refrain for the ages. Then the children go to school and have an array of vending machine products, like soda, processed snack foods and candy to choose from. Sound familiar?
Cash strapped districts are reluctant to lose a profitable fundraiser. Annual income from contracts between schools and vendors varies, with some schools raising as much as $100,000 a year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures' Health Policy Tracking Service.
A legislative bill before Congress and the Senate has been sent to committees:
Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act of 2009 - Amends the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 to require the Secretary of Agriculture to establish science-based nutrition standards for foods served in schools other than foods served under the school lunch or breakfast programs.Applies such standards to all food sold outside such programs anywhere on school campuses during the school day, with the possible limited exemption of food sold at school fundraisers. 
Requires the Secretary to: (1) consider the recommendations of authoritative scientific organizations and evidence concerning the relationship between diet and health when establishing the standards; and (2) review the standards as soon as practicable after the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services publish a new edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Currently, both the House and the Senate have sent the bills to committees. The past two sessions have seen those bills die. Concerned parents have an opportunity to make their voices heard as three local elected politicians sit on the committees that will determine the fate of the Child Nutrition Act.
In the Senate,  Ohio Senator  Sherrod Brown is a co-sponsor of the bill. In the House, two local representatives sit on the committee, Representative Marcia Fudge, 11th district  and Representative Dennis Kucinich, 10th district.  Contact them to share concerns and opinions about this important act.
For more info: The bill has been been referred to committee. Congress will next meet on September 8, 2009. To read the full bill and follow its status in the legislature, click here. For a complete list of committee members, click here.  The complimentary Senate bill has also been sent to committee.

Monday, August 17, 2009

ZeroLandfill Green

ZeroLandfill Cleveland harvest dates

ZeroLandfill is an award winning beneficial reuse program held seasonally that supports the supply needs of local artists and arts educators while reducing pressure on local landfill capacity. Since 2006, the ZeroLandfill project team has assisted the architectural and interior design community in identifying, diverting from local landfills, and re-purposing back into the community thousands of pounds of specification samples that hold value for other audiences. As a community of practice, ZeroLandfill projects inspired by the NE Ohio experience are at work in a number of cities across the country this year.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Sun Safety Green

Sun safety for a great Cleveland forecast

With a wonderfully rare Cleveland forecast of sunny skies for the upcoming weekend, as exhilarating as sunshine can be, it also can pose a true threat without proper protection. Most parents feel safe slathering on the sunscreen, but sunscreen can also pose a unique set of concerns. Considering that anything that is put on the skin will eventually wind up in the body, it pays to be conscientious when choosing a sunscreen.

On average, children get three times more sun exposure than adults. About 80% of lifetime exposure occurs before the age of 18. Using high SPF 15+ products during the first 18 years of life can dramatically lower the risk of certain types of skin cancer.

Recent research suggests that many common sunscreen ingredients are not particularly safe. Samuel S. Epstein, author of Toxic Beauty , warns that ingredients such as benzophenone are a "hormone disrupter" which mimics natural hormones produced by the endocrine system. It is also an allergen, causing allergic reactions, and a "penetration enhancer," which penetrates the skin, and is absorbed into the bloodstream and invades body wide organs. Octyl-methoxycinnamate is also a hormone disrupter and penetration enhancer which has been detected in breast milk. Oxybenzone, another hormone disrupter, has also been detected in breast milk. Parabens are still other hormone disrupters.

This is unsettling news to parents who want to enjoy the outdoors but also protect their children. Fortunately, there are many new products available for consumers to choose from. Obviously the above ingredients need to be avoided. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide remain safe sunscreen ingredients.

broccoli as sunscreenAdditionally, researchers at Johns Hopkins have learned that an extract from broccoli, called sulforaphane has sunblocking properties. Sulforaphane has the effect of activating cells' production of what are known as "phase 2 enzymes." One such enzyme, glutathione S-transferase, has been shown to neutralize the DNA-damaging compounds produced by the skin produces when struck by ultraviolet radiation. If children won’t eat broccoli, they may just be able to wear it.

Other safe sunscreens utilize soy. SoyScreen owes its sunburn-preventing properties to ferulic acid, an antioxidant in rice, oats and other plants. To keep the antioxidant from dissolving in water, researchers bound it to soy oil using lipase enzymes and heat in an environmentally friendly process called biocatalysis.

Lastly, there is always sun shielding clothing, which is self explanatory. This clothing made from textiles that shield the skin from the dangerous UVA/UVB rays. With careful choices and diligence, it is possible to soak up the sun in a safe manner. Have a wonderful weekend!

For more info: Saffron Rouge has published a Black list and a Green list of both unsafe and safe ingredients in cosmetics. This is a handy resource for any green consumer.

Men's Sunblock Shirt

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pick Your Own Green

Picking some fun at local farms

My first article for The Examiner as the local green parenting expert.

As summer comes into her full glory, local produce is in abundance. One of the best ways to encourage healthy eating is to engage children in the hunting and gathering process. Luckily, this region has a myriad of pick your own fruit and vegetable farms. It is a wonderful opportunity for children to learn that raspberries do not come in cardboard boxes of individually cellophane wrapped gelatinous sheets of blue colored leather, but rather are brilliant crimson fruit on a vibrant green plant.

There are many advantages to self picking produce. Clearly from an environmental standpoint, there is no packaging or fuel to ship the produce halfway around the world. Many of the local farms practice organic gardening, so there is no concern about pesticide residue. From a taste standpoint, nothing will ever be remembered by a child so much as the first bite of something they pick themselves, from plant to mouth in less than a minute is unforgettable.

Many of the local farms cater to families and have hay rides to the fields, activities and classes for all ages. The events go all summer well into the fall harvest season. Pick your own farms aren't just for pumpkins, but also sweet corn, green beans, peas, tomatoes. Any fruit or vegetable that grows locally can be hand picked. It's a valuable experience for young people to see where food really comes from, not simply a package on the supermarket shelf.

It nurtures a respect for the entire food chain and circle of life. Instilling appreciation at an early age will create ownership for the planet that is their home.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Electronic Gadget Green

Last fall, I watched in horror as 60 Minutes reported about the toxic wasteland our obsession with the newest, obsoletely planned gadgets creates in China and other NIMBY (not in my back yard) places. I vowed not to upgrade anything that didn't require upgrading, the story upset me that much.

I learned I am eligible for a free upgrade on my cell phone.

The temptation is huge. My phone is text challenged, or perhaps the operator is? Those shiny whistles and bells really are tempting me. I consider the ramifications of upgrading my phone as I wonder... what will happen to my old one?

I believe I've found a doubly green solution.

Their mission statement:

Gazelle wants to change the world – one cell phone, one laptop, one iPod at a time. It is our purpose – and our promise – to provide a practical, rewarding way for people to finally rid themselves of all those old cell phones, digital cameras, and gaming systems that they no longer use, but can't seem to find a way to let go of. Too often when people think of recycling, they rush straight to smashing things into bits for parts. We believe that reuse should always come first. If your GPS unit still works, why not keep it in circulation AND get paid for it? If reusing isn't in the cards, then let us recycle that vintage camcorder. We think of it as ReCommerce. Yeah, we're green.Green for you with dollars in your pocket. Green for the environment with fewer electronics being trashed. It's good to Gazelle. That's our promise.

This site will buy/sell your old electronic devices. They will even mail you a postage paid envelope. It operates much the way Ebay does. The average customer sends in 2 items per box. I bet every reader here has an electronic gadget they either have stuffed into a drawer or thrown out. (gasp). Today, I'm challenging my readers to find their old unused electronics and do something worthwhile with them. Perhaps organize a fundraiser? Perhaps donate? Do something useful that doesn't hurt the environment with them. Get cash, even.

Let me know if you decide to embrace this challenge, I'm excited to learn the results!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Lunch Packing Green

sustainable shopping bagSummer vacation is officially over as signaled by the need to pack my child a sack lunch for band camp today. Lunch packing is a universally accepted way to economize, but it also can be a great way to reduce and reuse without adding trampling our environment in the process.

When I was growing up, my mother never met a piece of aluminum foil or resealable bag she couldn't wash and reuse. When I stocked my first apartment, I joked that I was amazed to learn aluminum foil came on rolls! Personally, I'm not a huge fan of even using those items in the first place. I do have a ready supply of resealable containers, including a collection empty delicatessen containers, that I pack food in. I do not buy individually packaged snacks, but rather measure an appropriate serving into one of my reusable containers.

I invested in a few decent insulated containers as well. When my daughter's princess thermos was too babyish for her to use, I covered it with contact paper to a more neutral appearance. There was nothing wrong with the thermos, just the design on it. This is a challenge I issue to all my readers. Before disposing of a perfectly good household item simply as a fashion choice, consider how to change it to something that will be used.

All these items can be washed and reused time and time again. The insulated lunch boxes lasted over 4 years, although this year they will need to be replaced.

One last hint/request. Never, ever, ever use juice boxes. The composition of juice boxes makes them virtually impossible to recycle:

Juice boxes are typically made up of six layers of paper (24%), polyethylene (70%), and aluminum foil (6%). The paper provides stiffness and strength and gives the package its brick shape. Polyethylene serves two purposes. On the inner most layer, it forms the seal that makes the package liquid tight. On the exterior, it provides a protective coating that keeps the package dry and provides a printing surface for nutritional and marketing information. The aluminum foil forms a barrier against light and oxygen, eliminating the need for refrigeration or preservatives to prevent spoilage. The straws are made of plastic and wrapped in cellophone. Multipacks contain six or more juice boxes, and are often wrapped in a cardboard sleeve that displays the name of the product and other specifications, then shrink-wrapped in plastic.

Give me a thermos or reusable sports bottle.

Greensmart is one company that has made a true commitment to the environment. They manufacture all their products from recycled materials.

Packing a lunch that doesn't pack our landfills is a challenge to embrace as we get ready to go back to school.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Programmable Thermostat Green

As I sit on vacation, looking out at the ocean, I succumb to the temptation to post a green lifestyle hint. Perhaps my enjoyment of the offerings of our earth is the motivation to wanting to preserve our majestic planet. Nonetheless, as I wandered around our vacation rental, I was pleased to see the programmable thermostats.

If you haven't installed one, now is the time. A programmable thermostat ensures that your home will only be heated or cooled when you are there to need it. We set our thermostat to shift several times daily based on our patterns. We lower the temperature at night in the winter, when we're covered with warm blankets and lower it during the day when we're not home. We only raise it when we're home. In the summer, we follow the opposite pattern when cooling the home. We raise it when we're not home, and raise it when we're sleeping and not moving around getting heated. We also make a habit of drawing the shades so the sun works in harmony with our temperature controls and we utilize ceiling fans to keep the air moving efficiently.

Our programmable thermostat saves us a great deal of money on utilities as well as takes less from the environment to run our furnace or air conditioner. It's a simple investment that pays in several shades of green.

Now back to my regularly scheduled ocean views. Stay comfortable!

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Compact Green

I read about this group a few years ago and have remained intrigued by their premise. Founded in 2006 in San Francisco, a group of 50 people made a year long pledge to buy nothing new (with the exception of hygiene and safety goods).

They bartered, repaired, and truly considered every single financial choice they made. The spirit of the organization resonates with several of my recent posts including:

http://ourdailygreenlife.blogspot.com/2009/07/clothing-green.html and

This movement has gained momentum, but also has its share of detractors.

I would like to hand my blog over to my readers for the next week, while I'm away.
Please share your thoughts on this topic or suggest topics to address when I return.

I am curious, my friends, how long do you think you could go without buying anything new? Would you be able commit to making such a Compact? What level of green choices are you comfortable making?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Compost Green

In yesterday's post, I promised I would write about composting today. As someone who wants to live green and save money, I find composting one of the simplest ways to accomplish that.

In prior posts, I've suggested brewing your own coffee (in unbleached filters I may add), planting a garden, and recycling. Composting is an extension of these concepts.

I prefer to compost in a bin, but last year, I just piled it in a vacant corner and turned it over every few days, burying the rotting plant matter. The soil I planted my garden in this year has benefitted immensely. This year, I made my own compost bin from an old garbage can.

Compostable materials include:

  • Kitchen scraps that are not meat or dairy based (no bones, fat or cheese)
  • Eggshells
  • Coffee grounds
  • Vegetable peels
  • Apple cores
  • Citrus skin
  • Banana peels
  • Plant trimmings
  • Dead headed flowers
  • Grass clippings
  • Leaves
  • NO pet waste 

I keep a small container under my sink to collect my daily compost materials. Instead of washing it down the drain with my disposal, I save my "green gold" to enrich the soil for my garden. I live in an area that has a lot of rocky/clay soil and the compost makes the difference between being able to plant successfully or not.

My garbage can composter has 1/2 inch holes drilled into it about every 6 inches to keep air circulating. It has holes in the bottom for drainage so it doesn't get too soggy and holes in the snap shut lid. Once a week, I turn the can on its side and roll it around a few times to mix the compost. I try to keep the moisture level like wet newspaper. If it gets too wet, I will throw in some shredded newspaper, if it gets too dry, I'll dump the water I steam my vegetables in. Corn water is fabulous for the plants.

The scraps decompose and become rich soil food. I don't use chemical fertilizer so it really enhances my plants. I had looked into purchasing a compost tumbler, but found the price tag too high for my needs. The garbage can is working just fine. I don't recommend using a metal garbage can, but rather a plastic one.

Don't throw out valuable, free, fertilizer and soil enhancer. Make it yourself and give back to your bottom line and the earth.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What's For Dinner Green

First, I will say, I love to cook and I love trying new foods. My personal choices for cooking may be more ambitious than someone who isn't enamoured with cooking. But even with that in mind, there are still several ways to cook a meal with regards to the environment and budget.

There are pages and pages available on environmentally correct dining. I'm not going to go there. Instead I will offer the simplest easiest tip I can. Shop your pantry and freezer/refrigerator. Do NOT run to the store for "one item" in a recipe. Improvise. Be adventurous. Go meatless a few meals a week. Fill your pantry with canned beans, whole grain pasta, and spices for a quick protein fix that will not spoil. A shocking statistic that will make you reconsider meat at every meal? A pound of beef requires around 12,000 gallons of water to produce, compared to 60 gallons for a pound of potatoes.

My favorite surprise under the "What's for Dinner" category is to look at 3 random ingredients I already have. I type those ingredients into a search engine and scan the recipes. This is also a fabulous way to use up fresh ingredients before they spoil. (and if your fruit/veggies start to go bad, do NOT throw them out, but compost them, which will be another post, tomorrow).

One night, I served a lasagna with Texturized Vegetable Protein (dried soy nuggets that when reconstituted has the feel of ground beef), cottage cheese, and fresh tomatoes. It was fantastic! I've found some real hits that have become family favorites. I keep a blog with another writer friend of mine, Cooking With Superfoods that lists several of those sorts of recipes. We try to inspire each other with healthy eating and simple recipes.

A few moments of thoughtful planning before a meal and an adventurous palate will fill your stomachs in a budget friendly and environmentally happy way.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Library Green

I spend a lot of time in our local library. Most local libraries offer a family consumer multiple ways to live green, not just by borrowing books. Libraries offer CDs, DVDs, and computer games, all for the *price* (free) of a library card. The check out time is more generous than movie stores, also.

A library will request any book you want if it's not available on the shelf. The library in my town is rather small but has access to the entire county library system. It generally takes about a week, the same time it would to order and purchase a book.

One of my other favorite things about a library is the book sales. I am a book junkie but I refuse to pay full price for them. Libraries usually sell a bag of books for a buck on the last day of the sale. I have stocked up on the classics as well as several interesting how to repair assorted household items this way. I figure it's always wise to know how to fix something if it's broken, rather than add it to our increasingly overflowing landfills.

The best part, this helps keep my wallet fuller, too. Next time you need a book, movie or music, don't pay money for it, borrow one from your local library.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bill Paying Green

If there is a green that strikes fear in the hearts of most consumers, it's the green that disappears from our bank accounts monthly when we pay bills.

Yet, like taxes, we all must pay bills. Today's electronic billing makes that easier and more environmentally friendly than ever. If you aren't paying your bills online yet, it's time to start.

One of my favorite tips is to set up whatever monthly bills you can to a credit card. I have most of my utility bills set up that way. The key is to always pay your card IN FULL and ON TIME to avoid the late fees or interest charges. (which would negate the green savings).

Paying bills online, versus a stamp and envelope, also saves a bit of money and the planet. Truthfully, while some consumers fear putting any financial information online, there is no more risk to bill paying online than there is to using a credit card or check in the mail, and perhaps even less. *A helpful hint is to make sure the website is secure by looking at the internet address bar. Secure sites use the coding httpS, instead of http.* This means your personal information is scrambled while it goes over the internet.

I have at least 10 bills a month. I figure at a cost of 40 cents a stamp, times 10 bills, times 12 months, I am saving almost $50/annually by paying bills online. That's a green I can get excited about.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

School Supply Green

WHAT? School Supplies? It's only July!!!

But every single advertisement is loaded with back to school sales. It's time to at least start thinking about it as the colorful circulars and displays fill our mailboxes and storefronts. One of the things I do at the end of every school year is set aside the unused supplies in a special area. The notebooks and folders, the boxes of crayons, the scissors. I make sure the lids on the glue bottles are secure and the caps on the markers tight. When we get our supply lists, I challenge the kids to see how many of the items they can *shop* for at home. Most of the time, it's over 50% of the lists. We have made it a personal goal to use what we already have, first.

Before you do any shopping this coming month, I want to share a video with you. Spend 20 minutes watching it with your family. It will impact you in a way that is certain to change your shopping habits, habits that will leave the earth and your bank account more green!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Summer Fun Green

Today's post was inspired this article:

Even Major League Baseball has joined the green movement. For example, at last week's All Star Game, "everything from powering Busch Stadium with wind energy from wind farms in Missouri to making sure the toilet paper in the bathrooms came from 100 percent post-consumer content is being done to help minimize global warming and pollution."

While this is encouraging news for the environment, unfortunately, it's not such encouraging news for the wallet. Attending a professional sporting event is an expensive option for a family. With our economy strained, many people are opting to stay home and make their own fun, instead of traveling. Since this blog is how to save both money and resources, I would like to propose some more budget friendly alternatives that still remember the planet we call home.

A backyard picnic, (with all reusable items of course, no paper!)
A bike ride
Swimming in a local pond or lake (our bodies could use a break from chlorinated pool water)
Picking fresh fruit or veggies at a local U Pick farm (many of these places have special kid's activities),
Making homemade ice cream in a recycled coffee can http://dairyspot.com/kitchen/recipes/desserts/kickthecan_icecream.html
A neighborhood pick up softball or baseball game?

With a little imagination and enthusiasm, your personal All-Star team color is sure to be GREEN!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rechargable Battery Green

butterfly forestAfter returning from a lovely trip to visit my family in Florida, I realized how very grateful I was for my rechargeable batteries. I always was ready to take more photos and my camera chews through the regular batteries. The photo is an example of one of the hundreds of pictures I take using a camera powered with rechargeable batteries.

I recommend investing in rechargeable batteries for everything you'd normally use alkaline batteries. Though the initial cost is a bit of a setback, in the long term, it's a savings. Plus, you never have to run out for batteries, you will always have a charged one on hand. Not to mention less trash. While batteries don't take up a lot of room, they are filled with toxins that can contaminate the ground they wind up in.

Additionally, it is not easy to find a place to recycle alkaline batteries. Rechargeable ones can be taken to several retailers for recycling, such as, Alltel, Batteries Plus, Best Buy, Black & Decker, The Home Depot, Milwaukee Electric Tool, Orchard Supply, Porter Cable Service Center, RadioShack, Remington Product Company, Sears, Staples, Target, US Cellular, Verizon Wireless, and Wal-Mart. And in Canada: Battery Plus, Bell Mobility, Canadian Tire, FIDO/Microcell, Future Shop, The Home Depot, Home Hardware, London Drugs, Makita Factory Service Centers, Personal Edge/Centre du Rasoir, RadioShack Canada, Revy, Sasktel, Sears, The Sony Store, Telus Mobility and Zellers.

Incidentally, no batteries should never be thrown into the regular trash. In my community, the local libraries accept alkaline batteries for recycling. They offer a collection bag that I hang on a door handle.

For a complete overview of battery disposal, The Environmental Health and Safety office has published this comprehensive page of hints. 

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Health Care Green

As our nation tries desperately to find a solution to our Health Care Crisis, I find myself increasingly frustrated that very little discussion is devoted to true HEALTH, but rather SICK care.

One of the easiest ways to not have to worry about health care is to stay healthy. Staying healthy is as simple as good eating and frequent exercise. So many of our illnesses can be prevented.

This is today's simple tip. Live healthy, so you don't get sick. Eat food that remembers where it comes from. Avoid processed, chemically altered, and fake food. Skip fruit flavored snacks and eat fruit. Drink water, not soda. Walk or ride a bike somewhere instead of drive.

For additional reading on how to take charge of our health, I would like to share this site:


Have a healthy day!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Clothing Green

Did you ever wonder what the real price of fashion is? Not just on our bank account but also on our environment. In a society that dictates wardrobe changes with each season, there is tremendous clothing waste. Polyester is a petroleum based fiber while cotton is one of the most water and pesticide dependent crops. Eco-friendly clothing is available, but tends to be at a premium price. What would any self respecting green person, who also likes to keep green in their wallet do?

Long ago I discovered the joys of thrift and consignment shopping. This is something I've embraced so thoroughly that I went into premature labor with my first child in the parking lot of a consignment shop, looking for maternity clothing.

Derick Melander's Massive Secondhand Clothing Sculptures
When you shop such stores, no additional resources are being used to buy something already manufactured. With a careful eye, you can wear clothing that is a fraction of the original price. My daughter has hosted a clothing swap with her peers, so they wind up with "new to them" fashion pieces. When my children were babies, garage sales and consignment shops outfitted them. I've also shopped auction sites for specific items, rather than hope to find it somewhere. I've turned thrifting into a bit of a hobby, always watching for out of season items. My best coupe was an $800 designer lambskin leather jacket for $20 in the early spring.

I also recommend learning the art of repairing small tears, lost buttons and broken zippers. Think back to the 40s wartime mentality to make everything last as long as possible.

With a little creativity and a new outlook, fashion can be had for a song. The tune will make your wallet and the environment join the chorus.

*for more extensive reading on the environmental impact of fashion, I recommend this article, Waste Couture*

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Water Bottle Green

Recent news reports about bottled water being less safe than tap water has prompted today's post. If this isn't reason enough to consider ditching bottled water, consider the cost and environmental reasons to go back to tap water. Water is one of the healthiest drinks we can consume, but what is the impact on the landfills and budget if you drink only bottled water.

Investing in a filtering faucet or pitcher to purify your tap water will improve the taste of any tap water. A reusable thermos is a one time investment that will save you a great deal of money.

Here is a pledge to "Take Back the Tap" that you may commit to as a reminder of the reasons to eschew bottled water in favor of tap. When you signup, you will also receive regular hints from the site on ways to conserve water.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Trash Separating Green

Our school has an ongoing fundraiser of collecting aluminum cans to repave the surface of the middle school track. I think this is a fabulous earth friendly and economical way to raise money. We have visible evidence that recycling pays literally right under our feet.

Another fundraiser that is active in many communities is today's twist on the old fashioned paper drive. Community bins that collect all types of paper and magazines can be found at this website, Paper Retriever. The money goes right to the organization that keeps the bin.

What if you live in a community that does not have such fundraisers? Why not save your cans for your own bank account? My father always said if you watch after your nickles the dollars take care of themselves, so this effortless recycling program can certainly add a little bit to your household bottom line.

Another possible avenue is the growing company, Recyclebank, where you receive rewards for recycling everything from cans to plastics to paper, either curbside or at recycling center kiosks. If your community supports RecycleBank, you can find yourself building rewards for major companies and retailers around the United States.

There are better things to do with your money than throw it away. Find a way to make your trash turn into cash.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Mosquito Green

With the warmth and sunshine, also comes a fair amount of bugs. Bug bites are not just annoying, but also a potential health hazard. Any measure we can take to avoid them is welcome. Many times, though, that will involve toxic and costly chemicals.

There are other ways to lessen the chance of getting mosquito bites.

The easiest change is to replace outdoor incandescent bulbs with fluorescent ones that will not draw the mosquitoes.

Incorporating mosquito repelling plants into the landscaping is another simple start. Mosquitoes are repelled by the smell of rosemary, catnip, marigolds. Simply crush the leaves to release their scent, or rub them on your skin and clothing for the most protection.

Another natural home remedy is crushed parsley in apple cider vinegar dabbed onto your skin. Skin is naturally acidic, so when the vinegar dries there will be no lingering scent.

If external repellents aren't strong enough, you can also repel them internally via your food consumption. A diet rich in vitamin B1 such as wholegrain bread and cereals or brown rice is theorized to repel mosquitoes.
no more bug bites
My personal favorite is food seasoned with garlic.

At the very least, it will keep the vampires away. Hopefully, the more annoying and less glamorous bloodsucker, the mosquito, will steer clear as well.

If you continue to have mosquito issues around your home, call a pest control company in your area.

Wishing you a bite free summer!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Vote Green


Some colleagues of mine have gotten behind this finalist. It's a great opportunity to make a difference in the world with a simple click. You can vote once a day!

If CarbonfreeDC won, our organization would launch the “Extreme Green Neighborhood Makeover” campaign. We would use the $20,000 to help 20 families from a low-income city block in Washington, DC to green their homes and lifestyles as they choose. For each home, we could purchase affordable carbon-reducing and money saving solutions like CFL bulbs, programmable thermostats, weather stripping, low-flow showerheads, power-down power strips, water heater insulation blankets and Energy Star-rated appliances. We would ask eco-consultants to donate their time to do a complete energy audit of each home and recruit volunteers from our own 650-member organization to help the families install the equipment.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Coffee Green

As the sun rises, so does the thought of fresh brewed coffee. Thank goodness for that chain coffee shop on the way to work.


No, no, no! Thank goodness you can brew your own cup of premium coffee in a reusable insulated mug right at home. For so many reasons, environmentally as well as economically, this is the right choice.

When you brew at home, you have the opportunity to purchase organically grown coffee, use filtered water, and have a reusable vessel. You're not driving any additional mileage while your car idles in a line to get a cup of coffee (and probably a very unhealthy pastry). You're also conserving time. It is much more efficient to brew coffee at home than drive and wait in line for it at a store. By the time you're to the store, you could have already had your first sip of hot fresh coffee.

An additional benefit is the compost you're making for your garden. Coffee grounds and brown unbleached filters are some of the best compost starters available.

I'll wrap up this post with a sip of my own steaming mug of fresh brewed coffee. Ahhhh, the taste of saving money and the environment is delicious!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Produce Green

wild raspberries
This is the time of the year when the crops start to really flourish. If you don't have your own garden, shop the local produce stands. Look for organic farmers or a farm market. Shop for what is in season, and utilize your freezer for the same food when it's out of season.

When you buy local, in season produce, you aren't contributing to the carbon footprint of shipping food from around the globe that most likely has been grown with chemical fertilizers. You can take advantage of surplus crops, like tomatoes, berries and peppers by freezing them for the winter. I wash and chop the larger items and leave the smaller items whole. I place them on a cookie sheet in a single layer and freeze until they are hard. A few hours later, I package them into reusable plastic containers and label them. You'll enjoy your summer produce long into the months ahead while you add flavor and nutrition to your winter diet.

For recipe ideas that utilize some of the fresh healthy offerings of the garden, check out another blog I contribute to, Cooking with Super Foods.

Your bank account will thank you now and this winter. Enjoy your in season produce!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Celebration Green

With the holiday weekend fast approaching, thoughts of picnics and barbeques run rampant. Parties can be somewhat eco-unfriendly, without some forethought. I've listed a few of my favorite ways to enjoy the company of friends and family without trampling on our planet.

Have labeled trash cans so that cans and bottles can be recycled. Invest in inexpensive flatware that can be reused year after year, instead of disposable plastic utensils. It's so much nicer to eat with real utensils. Use a vinyl tablecover instead of throwaway paper. Anything that is disposable only adds to the growing landfills and is a recurring expense. Instead make a one time investment in party supplies that can be used over and over. Flatware doesn't wear out, reusable dishes last year after year. A one time investment can become a life long tradition.

Have a safe and festive holiday, and this year, instead of just Stars and Stripes, fly the Green flag, also!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Cold Water Green

In keeping with the laundry theme that began my blog, I thought of another point regarding laundry.

Everything you own can be cold water washed. Warm and hot water washes are a thing of the past now that detergent is more effective. Cold water also protects the colors in your clothing longer and ensures the least possible shrinkage or damage to your clothing.

Additionally, if your washer has a "quick wash" setting, that is probably adequate for most of your clothing, unless it was especially dirty. So often we forget to rotate that dial on our washer to another setting, which would save time and water.

Lastly, if you have an older washer, when you replace it, choose a front loader. It uses 1/3 the water that a top loader does, and utilizes gravity, not mechanics, to agitate your clothing. The slightly higher cost is offset in water savings.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Shower Green

from Consumer Reports blog, August 22, 2008:

“Take showers instead of baths to save energy,” is an oft-repeated adage of water and energy conservation advocates. But the Department of Energy’s water-heater-sizing pages now list the average shower as consuming 12 gallons and the average bath only 9 gallons of hot water.

The DOE is also saying that homeowners are using from 15 to 30 percent of their total energy budget just to heat water—up from an earlier 14 to 25 percent estimate. So is soaking instead of scrubbing the way to go?

This was unsettling news for me, as a shower is an efficient way for me to wash away the day's grime. Even when I take a bath, I still follow up with a shower to rinse my hair and body. A bath is more of a luxury than a daily routine, for me and most of the folks I know.

To reconcile this surprising statistic, I have learned to turn OFF the water while I lather myself. I get wet, lather my washcloth, wash my hair quickly, rinse and put in the conditioner, then the water goes off while I wash my body, shave, scrub my feet, etc. Then a final rinse and my shower is done.

We've discovered that when we use this method instead of letting the shower run the entire time, all three showers in our house can be used and nobody gets cold water. Which means we aren't using up all the hot/energy consuming water. Additionally, the investment in a low flow showerhead, while required by some municipalities, can cause a groan. But with a little research, it needn't feel like a squirt gun, but a regular waterfall. The only thing that won't be washing down the drain is your pennies.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Fluorescent Green

CFLCompact fluorescent bulbs are one of the easiest and painless ways save electricity and money. They have come down so much in price that the payoff is today, not a year from now. A compact fluorescent can be found on sale for under $3.00/bulb. Nearly every light in our home, from the recessed lights, to the lamps, to the pendant lights has fluorescent bulbs. We estimate a monthly savings of about $5.00 off our electric bill. Additionally, the bulbs last up to 10 times longer than a regular light bulb.

For a thorough comparison to incandescent bulbs, here is a link from the U.S. Dept. of Energy, One drawback of fluorescent bulbs is that they take longer to warm up, so in colder temperatures, they start off rather dim. I think it's a small inconvenience when compared to the energy and financial savings.

Napkin Green

Clothesline for dryingSTOP thinking that your cloth napkins are for special occasions only!

We all have piles of them, stashed away in a drawer, to be used twice a year, at best. Stop thinking like that and start using them! Using cloth napkins is one of the easiest ways I know to conserve disposable paper while dressing up a table at the same time. They are small enough to fit in any laundry load. (and naturally, to dry on the line, so they don't need to be ironed).

It's time to take the cloth napkins out of storage and put them on your table. I keep my eyes peeled for napkins at garage sales and thrift stores as well and have quite a collection. They brighten my table and are reusable over and over.

Green can be quite elegant as well as thrifty.

Clothesline Green

There are so many reasons to dry clothing on a clothesline. The smell is reminscent of everything summer and wonderful. The image is charming and quaint.

Beyond that, the obvious benefit is electric conservation. Additionally, an opportunity to extend the life of your clothes. The lint in a dryer is the clothing fibers breaking down. Another benefit is that clothing dried on a line rarely needs ironing, it dries flat and wrinkle free.

ClotheslineFor some, there are homeowner's restrictions or stigmas. This can be circumvented with a very clever garage clothesline, to dry your clothes in the privacy of your own garage. In the winter, hanging racks are also available, which also will help humidify your air, cutting down on static electricity.

Living green involves a lot of lifestyle changes, I suggest incorporating them little by little, such as trying to dry at least one load a week on a line, until it becomes second nature. Your electric company may not send you any thank you notes, but your wallet will.

Green is the New Black

In so many ways, not just the politically correct way.

Living green also helps keep more green in your wallet. In economically tough times, any tip that conserves dollars as well as our environment is welcomed.

This blog will offer a daily tip to better living for both our planet and your wallet. Welcome to 2009, where Green is the new Black.