Monday, June 30, 2008

Let's Take a Shower...

and make it shorter! (where did you think I was going with that?!)

I was reading on another "green mom" blog -apparently I've joined an army - about the idea of shortening your shower to 5 minutes. I currently have no idea how long I spend in the shower. All I know is that my shower's are shorter than my husband's! I am going to see if I can get him on board with my plan to shorten our showers for the month of July to only 5 minutes.
I think the biggest obstacle for both of us will be shaving, since we both do it with the water running (yes, I'm still talking about shaving.) I could easily let the tub fill while I shower and shave with the accumulated water. Maybe he could shave in the sink, post-shower (isn't that how guys are supposed to do it anyway?!)...

I'll have to time our showers tomorrow so we having a starting point to measure our progress against.
(I'll be honest, I'm doing this as a preemptive cop-out, because the thought of only 5 minutes to shower just sounds plain unreasonable. If I can't get it to 5, at least I'll be able to see how far we cut down.)

Anyone care to join me? Post your current shower length and we'll see what we can do!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

An argument for the Green power of..*gasp*..Capitalism?

Yes, you read that right.
Capitalism. It's often a dirty word in the green scene. I'll spare the editorial or spouting of my (still-evolving) beliefs. Instead I would just like to cite an article that confirms something I had been observing. As the price of gas soars, as yet unhindered by government action, it is actually making 'green' goods more affordable (our Toyota Prius is no longer just a cool ride - it's an economical choice!).

Here is a summary of a Wall Street Journal article I read on

With soaring energy prices pushing up the price of mainstream goods, green products are becoming just as-or even more-affordable than ever. The reason is that green products, by their very nature, have less fossil-fuel content than competing non-green brands. Their manufacturer also tends to consumer less oil, since green entrepreneurs favor renewable-energy and energy-saving practices. For example, Eco-Products, a company that makes compostable dinnerware, expects sales to jump this year to an estimated $50 million from about $11 million last year. Its products are made from a corn derivative rather than petroleum, which is standard in the industry. As a result, Eco-Products has been able to hold its prices steady while its competitors prices are going up. Similarly, TerraCycle, a maker of fertilizer from worm castings, plans to market an article fire log this winter that has a soy wax as a key component. Its biggest competitor makes a petroleum-based version.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Pride goes before a (eco-) fall

Yesterday I was all high & mighty over my big reusable bag discovery. Today I am taking my daughter to a craft program at our local library and it reminds me of something I need to confess.

I am a book collector.
Yes, I like to read. However, I will buy a book even when I'm in the middle of reading four others. I have books on my various bookshelves that are years old and have never been read. Yes, that would be money, trees and oil...wasted by me. *sigh*

My maternal grandmother was a librarian by trade, and growing up my family and I were regular library users. Somewhere along the line, though, I stopped borrowing and started buying. We are preparing to move and I have FOUR bookshelves to pack up. No Barnes & Noble bargain bin went un-perused, no gift card unspent, no Amazon wish-list ignored. I have amassed a collection of paperback, hardbacks, fiction, non-fiction, self-help,'s a mess.

So how to I correct this? Obviously, I need to stop buying every book that is recommended to me (be it friends, family or Oprah), has a pretty cover or a catchy title. Okay, that's Step 1.

Step 2 - find a way to recycle the books that a) I'm never going to read or b)I've already read & won't re-read (yes, I'm so nerdy that I re-read books). I suppose I could make a generous gift-in-kind to my local library, right? I mean who wouldn't want to read "A Year of Health & Beauty" by Beverly & Vidal Sassoon. Is the "Da Vinci Code" still popular? Hmmm...hopefully they'll accept my donation.

Step 3 - how do I address my insatiable lust for new books? No amount of green-lecturing is going to keep me from wanting new books. I think this is going to have to be a two-step program. First, use the library for any books that I am ready to read right now. Second, find a way to get those immediate gratification books that I'll end up reading "someday." I am looking into a website called where you can swap your books for others you'd like to read. That sounds like a good plan. I'll let you know how it goes!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

It's in the bag, baby!

Everyone knows plastic bags are wasteful and take up way too much space in our houses, but I did a little research and found some stats. According to (great name, huh?):
  • Plastic bags don't biodegrade - instead they slowly break into little toxic bits that contaminate our soil, water and food (oh, and it takes 1,000 years to fully decompose - what's filling up our landfills? These suckers.).
  • Paper bags aren't much better because they are so bulky and take more energy (OIL) to transport
  • 12 million barrels of oil are used to produce the plastic bags used in the U.S. in one year
But I also loathe those bulky, awkward reusable bags that "big box-mart" sells. I bought one on a guilt-trip day and it sits at home because I never remember to bring it with me when I run errands.

At our local organic grocer, I found a great solution. It's a big, nylon, reusable bag that collapses into a teeny bag that clips onto your purse (or fits nicely inside). I have mine stuffed in my purse and it's with me at all times. I use it for groceries, of course, and to round up the trash that accumulates in my car. Best of all, it was cheap ($5, I think) and I've had mine for almost a year now and it's still going strong.
I found the bag-makers website online - and have attached a pretty picture from their website.

Just for fun, I am also uploading a picture of mine.
Here is a picture of my purse & my bag
(and yes, that's really my hand...).
That sucker is tiny, isn't it?

Oh, and I also unfolded it and put it next to my purse so you could see how big it gets.
It holds probably twice as much as your average grocery store plastic bag.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Now don't get me wrong, I still use those plastic suckers.
But I use fewer and fewer all the time. And the ones I do bring home, I use to line our diaper pail, bathroom trash cans, and as spare bags for dirty/wet clothes when we're out and about. And when my little plastic bag full of plastic bags is overflowing, I take it to our grocery store and let them recycle it. Now excuse me, I have to go pat myself on the back... ;)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Lord Help Me - I'm becoming My Mother

Or my father to be more accurate. And my grandparents who grew up during the Depression. I spent the day in a house that was too warm, turning off appliances and lights in a manner that even annoyed me. This all reminds me of the things my parents and grandparents used to harp on "us kids" about growing up. I remember going to grandma's house in western New York state in August and thinking "PLEASE turn on some air conditioning!" Why was she so cheap? And my dad, always nagging us to "turn off a light when you leave the room." He couldn't figure out what was so difficult about that, and we couldn't figure out why he cared. Even when I started to pay my own bills, I just didn't think about it. Ever wonder what shape the Earth would be in if we still followed the principles so many of the Greatest Generation learned the hard way?

I spent the day trying to be very conscientious about my water and energy use. It was a rainy but muggy morning - nonetheless, I left my windows open and kept the A/C off. That lasted until my daughter and I were both overwarm in the mid-afternoon. I tried to delay the evil air conditioning by heading outside. Bad move. It was now sunny and HOT! The breeze was good, but not enough. We turned on the ever-popular Elmo sprinkler and ran through that a few times. After about 5 passes and one insulting spray in the face, Elmo was disconnected. We were cool - for all of 5 minutes. Back inside for drinks and...we turned on the air conditioning. Drat. My compromise was to only turn it on upstairs (we have separate controls for up & down), since we were probably going to want it on for baby bedtime anyway. As a result, we spent about an hour cleaning and packing (getting ready for the Big Move) in the cooler part of the house. Got stuff done, and didn't turn on the whole house a/c. That counts as a win right? Or at least a draw?

Hey, it's a start.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Eating Seasonally

This is something I'm just beginning to learn about. I'm about 100 pages in to "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver. The concept of eating seasonally makes sense to me. Eat it when it's fresh and move on to the next big thing when the seasons over. Doing this would definitely expand my fruit and vegetable consumption - I'm currently stuck on the apple, orange juice, banana, broccoli, baby carrots and salad routine beget of convenience. Feeling adventurous today, I hauled my quasi-agreeable daughter out of bed early to go to our local Farmer's Market. You know, that place you always mean to stop by on your way to work, but never remember until it's too late? Anyway, apparently a lot of good stuff is "in season!"

1. Basil. To symbolize my "turning over a new leaf" I bought myself a basil plant (yes, I'm rather literal) for a whopping $1.50 (see profile photo).
I love cooking with basil, and HATE buying those awful little pre-packaged plastic boxes with what has to be stale-imitation-basil, which is the only basil I can find in our local grocery stores. I am known to have the blackest of thumbs, but the friendly vendor assured me that I just needed to plant it, stick it in the sun and pick from it when the new little leaves were starting to sprout. Here goes nothing!

2. Cherries. With stems and seeds and NOT the kind that comes in fun mixed drinks. Hmmm. I bought a big bag full (for $5, I think). Too big, as it turns out. I need to do some research ahead of time. Anyway, I got home and looked up cherry recipes and found an easy one for Cherry Clafouti (basically a giant cherry pancake). I started slicing and pitting cherries, and my daughter sat on the floor at my feet gobbling down as many quartered cherries as I could hand her!
The recipe for Cherry Clafouti couldn't be easier and is as follows:

3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. flour
4 eggs
1 c. milk
3 c. fresh, halved & pitted cherries

Preheat oven to 375. Grease a pie pan with butter.
Dump cherries into greased pie pan.
In a mixing bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and eggs. Slowly stir in the milk to make a runny pancake-like batter.
Pour the batter over the cherries (the cherries will float to the top.
Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
Allow to cool on a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve warm.

In France, this is a dessert, but it makes a pretty fantastic breakfast, too. ;)

3. Summer Squash. Two green and one yellow - all three were good sized and had a beatiful unmarred skin - for $1.75. My 20-month old daughter sat and watched Barney today while noshing on some raw zucchini stick. I offered her some ranch dip, but she turned up her nose. She likes her "keenie" straight, apparently.

4. Beets. I know this is going to be a tough sell to my husband, but I love beets. Unbeknown to me, beets do not grow in a can. Additionally, they come with stems and leaves attached (and are one big bunch for $1). Puzzled, I asked our friendly farmer's marketress how to cook these things. She recommended cutting off most of the stem (more on that later) and steaming the beets in about an inch of boiling water. The dunk them in some cold water and the skins will slip right off and you'll have beets that are closer to my canned favorites (but hopefully better tasting and more nutritious.
Now, back to the stems. One of my biggest goals is to reduce my waste, so I asked her if the leaves or stems were edible. Yup! She said to sautee the leaves much like you would spinach - some butter and garlic and cook until tender.
So yes, that would be TWO vegetable side dishes for $1!