July 2009 - Our Daily Green

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
http://ourdailygreenlife.blogspot.com/2009/07/school-supply-green.html

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.

Consider:
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:

http://www.healthrevolutionpetition.org

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

I'm writing today's tip from Sunny Florida. With the warmth and sunshine, also comes a fair amount of bugs. Bug bites are not just annoying, but also a potential health hazard. So any measure we can take to avoid them is welcome. Many times, though, it's with toxic and costly chemicals. There are other ways to lessen the chance of getting mosquito bites.

The easiest changeo is to replace outdoor incandescent bulbs with fluorescent ones that the mosquitoes aren't drawn to.

Incorporation of 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. (When the vinegar dries there is no scent so you will not smell like a pickle.)

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. 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.

Wishing you a bite free summer!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Vote Green

http://greeneffect.nationalgeographic.com/idea/2108/

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.

SKREEEEEEEEEEECH! HALT!

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.