Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Great Green Gift

My eco-conscious sister always manages to find some really neat green gifts.  This Christmas she surprised me with a beautiful pair of earrings made from recycled forks.  The designer, Maude Lapierre, creates "unique pieces of jewelry out of discarded stainless steel cutlery, transforming the simple structure and patterns of a fork into something new and elegant."

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Aftermath of Christmas

One garbage bag full of wrapping materials to be recycled
As you know, this year, I did my best to "gift greener", by using  handmade material bags that can be reused, as well as gift bags that get reused.  But, there was still wrapping paper from family members, and some from our family too.

So after all the gifts were opened and everyone sat back to with a cup of tea and cookies, what happened to all that wrapping paper, packaging, etc.? 

All the recycling packaged up to go to the recycle center in NJ.
My mom and I sorted it all out and this is what we ended up with for recycling...pretty amazing if you think of all the households that do not recycle, and the amount of trash one holiday creates.  My hope for the New Year is that more people make an effort, and spend the few minutes to sort and recycle.

Note:  The trash bags filled with paper to be recycled, are dumped out at the recycle center, and then reused!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Greener Gifting isn't Grinchy

So as I wrap presents this year, I've vowed not to buy more wrapping paper...nope, I'm using up what was purchased at the after Christmas sale last year, and vowing not to buy more.  And ohhh, of course as I use up the wrapping paper, I'm recycling those cardboard tubes too!

Actually, I've already started using less wrapping paper.  This year, some family and friends will not receive gifts wrapped in paper, but instead, their wrapping will be more eco-friendly.  Their gift will either be "wrapped" in a reusable cloth bags made by moi, or reusable gift bags that I am recycling, or a fabric type garment that is also a gift in and of itself!  Even the ribbons I'm using to tie up these packages are being reused since I am reusing satin ribbons, wire ribbon, grosgrain, etc.from previous presents :)  Some gifts don't even need to be "wrapped" traditionally, and a pretty ribbon with a tag will suffice.  I think it's fun to be creative, use less paper, less tape, less curling ribbon, etc.

Although I must give credit to my mother who is amazing about recycling ALL the wrapping paper each Christmas, as well recycling bows, gift bags, cardboard boxes for clothing, and cardboard boxes from packaging.  She actually sifts through the "trash bags" of wrap, packaging, etc. to sort it for recycling.  I guess recycling is in my genetic makeup ;) which means I hopefully have passed it down to my children whether they like it or not!  I think that's one of the greenest gifts we can give our families, don't you?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

R is for Reduce, Reuse, Rejoice!

Here's a reason to rejoice :)  Tree-free holiday and greeting cards! 

Take a look at this greeting card company that is working to use 100% tree-free paper by using sustainable resources such as reclaimed sugar cane Sweetpaper(tm), up to 100% post-consumer recycled paper, FSC Certified paper, and soy-based inks.  Tree-free Greetings uses tree-free alternatives such as Kenaf from local North American farmers instead of trees.  Additionally, they sell "Plantable Greetings", cards seeded with wildflower seeds.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Simply Stated...

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."

Mahatma Gandhi

Sunday, December 5, 2010

How much food does the average American person eat?

Now that Thanksgiving, our favorite food related holiday has come and gone, you might be interested to know how much the average American person eats on a regular basis.  

To calculate a conservative estimate of how much food an average American eats, let’s assume that a person eats 3 meals a day, 365 days/year, and that each meals is about 1 pound of food.  Using these conservative, round numbers, the average American would eat about 1095 pounds of food  a  year not including snacks between the 3 main meals.

Other estimates are not as conservative, and range from about 1,500-1,900 pounds of food per person per year!  The website, states that “the average American is 36.6 years old and eats 1,996.3 lbs. of food per year.”  Is it any wonder that I can hear my parents' voices in my head now..."don't waste food", "there are other starving people in the world", "be grateful for your food". breaks down the food consumed into the categories listed below.  These statistics are interesting and staggering at the same time because certain foods such as meats and dairy are more resource and energy intensive to produce, and result in more green house gases compared to fruits and vegetables.  To see their colorful, informative graphic, check out their site 

  • 85.5 lbs. of fats and oils
  • 110 lbs. of red meat (62.4 lbs. of  beef and 46.5 lbs. of pork)
  • 73.6 lbs. of poultry, (including 60.4 lbs. of chicken
  • 16.1 lbs. of fish and shellfish
  • 32.7 lbs. of eggs
  • 31.4 lbs. of cheese
  • 273.2 lbs. of fruit 
  • 600.5 lbs. of non-cheese dairy products (including181 lbs. of milk)
  • 192.3 lbs. of flour and cereal products (including 134.1 lbs. of wheat flour)
  • 141.6 lbs. of caloric sweeteners (including 42 lbs. of corn syrup)
  • 415.4 lbs. of vegetables (including 56 lbs. of corn)
  • 24 lbs. of coffee, cocoa and nuts
Another interesting perspective on the amount of food we eat, and the human footprint that we leave on the planet can be see on the show, "Human Footprint" on National Geographic, Monday, Dec 6, at 9am  If you don't get a chance to watch it, you can also check out their interactive link, and find out your human footprint, or how much of the world you use in your lifetime. You can calculate how much you will consume and see how that measures up with the rest of the world.

Sources:, December 5, 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Gifts that Give Back by PB Teen

Very cool, I LOVE these pillow covers from PB Teen!  Not only do my girls think they are awesome (they love the 14 designs), but so do I (I love the eco-messages and that the gifts give back in more ways than one) :)

The pillow covers are 18" square, 100% organic cotton percale, with crewel embroidery.  They reverse to white, have hidden zipper closure, and are machine washable.  When you purchase one of PB Teen's hip, fun, organic pillow covers, they donate $5 to 1 of 7 great organizations including: Trees for the Future, Surfrider Foundation, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Special Olympics, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Student Conservation Association, and DO   For every "Branch Out" or "Tree Hug & Planet Love" pillow sold, one tree will be planted by Trees for the Future.  Now those are gifts that keep on giving (oxygen, shade, beauty, and homes for the critters!)...gotta love it!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

How much water does the average person use?

Why do we care how much water the average person in the United States uses? Isn’t there plenty of water for everyone? 

Well, depending on where you live, there may or may not be plenty of water.  In the United States we take running water for granted, but if you live in a third world country, you might spend a good part of your day retrieving water and boiling water to survive.  Since the water we use today is the same water that the dinosaurs, Christopher Columbus, and Abe Lincoln drank and used for daily living we need to be sure that water resources are conserved, used wisely, and shared equitably.   

Although 75% of the Earth’s surface is comprised of water, 97% of that water is saltwater, 2% is frozen, and only 1% is usable freshwater.   Kids in elementary school learn at an early age about the three phases of water and the water cycle, how water from the dinosaurs is recycled, and how water is vital to life on Earth.  They learn how we all live the Water Cycle on a daily basis, and why water is such a precious resource.  

Most Americans are very familiar with one part of the Water Cycle, precipitation, and tune in daily for the weather, specifically rain, sleet, hail, or snow.  American students learn about other parts of the Water Cycle as well.  They learn that the sun evaporates water from lakes and oceans (liquid water turns into water vapor), and about condensation of water vapor into tiny water droplets within the clouds.  Students learn that water is stored in glaciers, snow, ponds, lakes, rivers, and oceans.  Later they may learn the importance of natural filtration and storage of water in wetlands and marshes, and how it percolates into underground storage called aquifers that are pumped for drinking water and other uses. 

Luckily, the water cycle never stops; it keeps on going making life on Earth possible.  Unfortunately, some countries such as the United States use more of the limited freshwater resources, and have a water footprint that is double the global average water footprint.  According to,

“A country's water footprint, as opposed to simple water use, is the total amount of H2O needed for the production of goods and services. Figuring out a country's water footprint means adding all the water used plus the water inherent in products imported, then minus the water in exports. Using this top-down method, the average water footprint in the world is 1,243 cubic meters a year. As you already might have guessed, in the U.S. we are water hogs - we use more than twice the world average, or 2,500 cubic meters. That's equivalent to an Olympic-sized swimming pool for each and every one of us, or 2.5 million liters each. The Chinese, to compare, use 700 cubic meters annually.

The top five biggest average daily users of water are the U.S., Australia, Italy, Japan, and Mexico - all five of these use well over 300 liters daily (about 79.25 US gallons). The countries where water poverty is the worst and water usage is the lowest are Mozambique, Rwanda, Haiti, Ethiopia, and Uganda - these five use 15 liters (3.96 gallons) or less daily.”

So in answer to the question, "How much water does the average American use?", the answer ranges from about 80-100 gallons per day!  Surprisingly, the largest amount of water used daily is flushed down the toilet, with most toilets using about 5 gallons of water per flush!  Luckily you can reduce the water you use for flushing with simple devices such as the Dual Flusher (read more at and  Showering, uses between 25-35 gallons (depending on length of shower, and whether you have a new low flow shower-head or not), the dishwasher about 9-15 gallons, and washing clothes in a washing machine accounts for about 15 gallons.  In addition, we use water throughout the day to wash hands, brush teeth, and for other miscellaneous uses (not including outdoor water uses).  

So Americans need to think about how important the Water Cycle is to life on Earth, and be sure to conserve water resources whenever possible.   Keep reminding yourself and your  teens to take shorter showers, teach your children to turn off the faucet while brushing teeth, switch to low flow shower-heads and toilet flushing systems, and when replacing old appliances, buy Energy Star dishwashers and washing machines which are more water and energy efficient than older models.  Lastly, think before wasting precious water, life on Earth isn't possible without it..    
Sources:, 11/28/2010, 11/28/2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How much energy is conserved by switching to CFLs?

Regular bulbs, also called incandescent bulbs, glow when a tiny coil of wire is heated by electricity.  Energy-saving light bulbs, usually called compact flourescent bulbs or CFLs, produce light when electricity runs through mercury and gases inside of a spiral-shaped bulb.  For comparison sake, the cost for one regular 75 watt bulb is about 50 cents, and each bulb produces 1,200 lumens, while a CFL that also produces 1,200 lumens costs as little as $2.53.

So why would you pay approximately 5 times more for a CFL bulb?  Well the cost of energy used to light a regular bulb for 4 hours per day, in one year is $9.30, and the cost for the same time period and usage for a CFL is $2.50, a difference of $6.80 for just one light bulb.  Additionally, the regular bulb uses 75 watts of energy, while the CFL uses a mere 20 watts of energy, yet they both produce the same amount of light!  Another major benefit of the CFL is that it produces10,000 hours of light, while a regular bulb produces only 1,000 hour of light.

So back to the original question...

How much energy is conserved by switching to CFLs (comparing 75 watt regular bulb which is equivalent to a 20 watt CFL bulb, each producing 1,200 lumens of light)?  55 watts of energy are conserved by using a CFL bulb. 

If you replace one regular 75 watt bulb with a 20 watt CFL bulb, how much money is saved on energy costs in a year? $6.80 per year in energy savings per light bulb will be realized by making the switch.

How many regular bulbs would it take to light a lamp for the same amount of hours as one CFL bulb?  It would take 10 regular bulbs, at  50 cents a piece, or $5.00 for 10 regular bulbs, and the one CFL bulb that produces the same amount of hours, can be found for as low as $2.53-$4.00 per bulb.

Why do regular lightbulbs use so much energy as compared to CFLs?  Regular bulbs are making light and heat, and the heat is wasted. 

So what are the pros and cons of regular bulbs vs. CFLs?
One disadvantage of CFLs is that they take time to warm up to full brightness, and regular bulbs are at full brightness within a second, and only some CFLs are labeled for dimming control..  Another issue is that CFLs contain small amounts of mercury as vapor inside each bulb.  However, the retail price of the CFL includes an amount to pay for recycling, and manufacturers and importers have an obligation to collect and recycle CFLs.  The Home Depot stepped up and became the first retailer to make CFL recycling options widely available at it's stores, and collection bins are easily accessible.  Many other retailers also provide recycle centers for CFLs.  According to Wikipedia, the first step of processing CFLs involves crushing the bulbs in a machine that uses negative pressure ventilation and a mercury-absorbing filter to contain mercury vapor. The crushed glass and metal is stored in drums, ready for shipping to recycling factories.  Conversely, regular light bulbs can not be recycled.

On the bright side :) 
CFLs can be recycled.  The mercury inside the bulbs can be recovered and kept out of landfills.  Using CFLs results in energy savings of $6.80 per bulb.  CFLs last 9,000 hours longer than regular bulbs.  CFLs save 55 watts of energy.

So here's to a brighter future with energy savings and lower electric bills with CFLs :)  

Sources:, November 18, 2010.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Q is for questions

We’ve probably all heard that there is no bad question, except for the one not asked…and there are many  famous quotes about questions.  Here are a few of my favorites...

The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.  ~Thomas Berger

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.   ~Albert Einstein

It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?   
~Henry David Thoreau

Better to ask a question than to remain ignorant.  ~Proverb

He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever
~ Chinese Proverbs

So what are some questions we can ask about our human footprint?  And what green baby steps can we take to alleviate our human footprint? Here are a few questions related to our human footprint.  
  1.  How much energy is conserved by switching to CFLs?               
  2.  How much water does the average person use?
  3.  How much food does the average person eat?
  4.  How many diapers did you wear as a baby?
  5.  Won’t going green cost more?                      
  6.  How much water does the average shower use? 
  7.  How much food is wasted in the US each year?
  8.  Why should I buy locally grown and produced foods?
  9.  If milk is good for me, how can it be bad for the planet?      
  10. About how much packaging does an average American toss each year?                                              
If you are curious like me, tune in tomorrow to learn the answers to these green conundrums!  Some of the answers may shock you. And remember what Einstein said, "Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.  The important thing is not to stop questioning."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

P is for plastic

Plastic is everywhere.  Can you think of a day when you don't use plastic in some capacity?  Can you think back to a time when you don't remember plastic?

From the moment you are born, plastic is part of your life.  There are clear plastic "bassinets" in the nursery, petrochemicals in your disposable diapers, the plastic wristband placed on you and your parents, the plastic rattles, toys, legos, Barbie dolls, trucks, high chairs, non-breakable plastic bowls, sippy cups, and silverware.

And as you grow older, there are plastic containers to store cheerio snacks in, store leftovers in the fridge, plastic containers that strawberries, yogurt, milk, peanut butter, and ketchup come in.  Frozen peas, frozen chicken nuggets, frozen fish sticks, frozen french fries all come in plastic bags.  Oh, yes, plastic bags are used for groceries, sandwich bags, and handiwrap, lunchmeat bags, and there are bags of apples, lettuce, carrots, bread bags, and of course ziplocks are used for all kinds of things.  Plastic water bottles, juice bottles, soda bottles, energy drink bottles, etc.  Plastic is used for all kinds of medical equipment, tubing, toothbrushes, makeup containers, vitamin bottles, prescription bottles, etc.  The list goes on and on, suitcases, storage bins, trash cans and bags, car parts, game pieces, etc. etc. etc.

So we are surrounded by, and use plastic from the day we are born, until the day we die.  Sadly, every bit of plastic that has ever been created still exists.  It may get crushed into smaller pieces, and eventually break down to smaller polymers, but with the exception of  a small amount that is incinerated (which results in the release of toxic chemicals into the air), it still exits in our landfills and the oceans.  The massive Eastern Garbage Patch, which is caught up in the currents of the North Pacific Gyre is estimated to be the size of the United States, and extends to a depth of  about 100 feet.  The plastic and trash is harmful to the marine life which often eats the plastic bags and other trash mistaking it for food.  Sampling has found that the overall concentration of plastic is seven times greater than the concentration of zooplankton, which are the basis for the aquatic food web. That's just not right.

So what can we do?  We can each control how much plastic we consume, and we can control how much plastic we recycle or up-cycle. While I agree that there are many great uses for plastic, there are some uses that can be eliminated or reduced.  For example instead of buying disposable water bottles, use a stainless steel refillable bottle ;  instead of plastic baggies and ziplocks for lunches use reusable cloth pouches or use washable containers for pretzels, sandwich, grapes, etc.; the list goes on and on  If we each do our part, and make smart choices ...we can make a dent in the piles of plastic in landfills, and help clean up the ocean, and make our planet safer for future generations who will be exposed to plastic from the moment they are born to the day they die.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Candy Haul

Yikes!  My lil goblins hauled in just about 20 pounds of candy!  A dentist's dream come true...

So what is a mother to do?  Well, first comes the trading between siblings.  The kids each shared a few pieces with me and hubby too :)  Then they sorted out the types they don't care for (not as much as I'd hoped) and turned those over.  They also set aside some Hershey's bars for future s'mores or to melt down to make chocolate covered pretzels or fruit. 

In the past, the kids traded in a certain number of pieces for a Webkins.  Sometimes I offer to trade them for iTunes gift cards :)  When we make the trade, I put aside some candy such as m&ms, skittles, tootsie rolls, etc. to decorate gingerbread houses and cookies, freeze, to be added to cookies/brownies, or take it into work.   

The "trick" is...waiting until the candy is old news, they forget about it, or grow tired of it.  Then it's easier to make a trade, or make it disappear into candyland, and spread it out for future use :)

Now don't get me started on all the packaging, candy wrappers, etc that result from all these sweet little "treats"! 

Winks from a chocoholic! 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!!

Happy Halloween!!!  

I hope your little ghosts and goblins have a fun, safe evening.  Our kids managed to recycle some costumes, and alter them, borrow some clothes, and use regular clothes we already had into some cute costumes.  I've rarely bought a complete store bought costume (once I bought a bat like costume, and here and there a few props like Harry Potter's glasses, striped witch socks), but I prefer to sew something unique (my sewing skills are basic, not pattern worthy!), and be creative with what we have around the house and in the craft closet.   

This year, my little witch (recycled costume that has been worn repeatedly), camouflage army dude (borrowed all camo stuff from a friend), lifeguard (borrowed a lifeguard sweatshirt, whistle, sunglasses, and we had white makeup for the nose plus some bronzer), and Dorothy (altered the white portion of a previous costume, sewed her own gingham skirt, reused gingham hair ties, and glitterfied an old pair of my shoes with red paint and sparkles) look fabulous without breaking the bank, and I loved that we incorporated my green ethic into the fun by recycling and altering old costumes, borrowing, and being creative with what we already had.  

Happy Haunting from the Green Goblin...
I mean, Green Goddess ;) 

O is for odor eaters

Let's admit it.  The popular boots such as Uggs, Beachfeet, etc, the scuff slippers, sneakers, hiking boots, soccer cleats, and soon enough the snow boots, get awfully sweaty and stinky!   When several pair of these funky  locker room-like shoes and boots are stored in a closet, shoe bag, or basket, put it bluntly...PHEWWWW!!!

Odor eaters made from scrap fabric
The other day, Sweet Pea inadvertently helped come up with a solution to the problem :)  She came home from her sewing lessons with a small cute quilted pouch she'd made after finishing her main project.  She'd quilted the pouch from some fabric scraps, and asked what I thought she could do with it.  A light bulb went off in my head immediately since I'd just written the blog "N is for non-toxic".  My bright idea was to add non-toxic, odor absorbing baking soda to her cute little pouch, sew it shut, and add them to her boots.  She loved the idea and proceeded to recycle some more fabric scraps to make a second pouch.  Once she was done sewing them shut, she proudly took them and put them in her boots.  She tells me they already smells better :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

N is for non-toxic

Today, there are so many non-toxic choices for cleaning supplies, that it just makes sense to switch to products that are safer, non-toxic, and therefore healthier for humans, pets, and the environment. 

Because we do so much laundry, I began looking for a cost-effective yet eco-friendly alternative for laundry detergent.  One of the first things I tried was, soapnuts from LaundryTree  The outer shell of the soap"nuts", which are actually the fruit of the Sapindus Mukorossi tree, contains saponin.  Saponins are a natural substance known for its ability to cleanse.  According to LaundryTree the soapnuts are also antiimicrobial and biodegradable.  I was able to use the soapnuts by placing several in a cotton drawstring bag, or by making a liquid laundry detergent from them.  The spent "nuts" were added to our compost and the packaging was much more eco-friendly than commerically available detergent which comes in plastic containers.  I used essential oils to add a pleasant scent the laundry, and as far as I could tell, the laundry was as clean as usual, but I still met with quite a bit of resistance from my family.

LaundryTree's website also suggests soapnuts for non-toxic window cleaner, liquid hand soap, floor cleaner, kitchen and bathroom cleaner, and even as a shampoo!  Although I admit I didn't try the soapnut soak for these other applications, I still may.  It was worth a try as our laundry detergent, however, to keep the peace, I switched to a eco-friendlier laundry detergent than I had been using.  Although I don't think it can be classified as non-toxic, it's still better than what I was using, and sometimes you have to make trade-offs to achieve harmony.   

Now we're using, Natural Elements Ultra Purex linens and lilies laundry detergent as a compromise.  The packaging indicates that the detergent is a naturally sourced cleaning power, made from plant-based surfactants and natural fragrance extracts, that it is a biodegradable formula with no phosphates, safe for the septic, and it's affordable considering all the laundry we do.  The plastic bottle is recyclable, and there is also an EPA stamp, "designed for the environment" 

I am working on slowly switching to other non-toxic versions of cleaners such as Green Works Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaner, and "natural biodegradable" cleaning wipes with coconut-based cleaners and essential oils (and even though they are disposable I ease my conscience with the fact that they are compostable!).

Recently, after refilling my dishwashing pump with the last of the usual dishwashing liquid, I added it to my grocery list, and made a conscious decision to look for a non-toxic version to try.  I took the opportunity to buy ECOVER's ecological dishwashing liquid with lemon and aloe vera.  I'm very excited to try ECOVER's formula.  There are several reasons I decided to try ECOVER's dishwashing liquid: it's made with plant and mineral ingredients, is biodegradable, safe for septic systems, and made at their eco-friendly factory.  I'll be sure to let you know about the product once we use up the current dishwashing liquid :)

Besides non-toxic cleaning products available at the store from companies such as Ecover, Greenworks, Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyers, and J.R. Watkins, other options include natural cleaners that can be made with ingredients probably found in your fridge or cabinets: such as apple cider vinegar, white vinegar (a weak form of acetic acid), baking soda (sodium bicarbonate or NaHCO3), and lemons.

There are many recipes to make simple general purpose cleaners:
Mix 2 tbs baking soda + 16oz water in a spray bottle, or 
mix a solution of 1 part water to 1 part vinegar, or
mix ½ c apple cider vinegar with 1c water (clean tiles, disinfecting, windows, microwave, glass, mirrors)

Other cleaners that can be made easily:
Window cleaner:  Mix 1 tsp distilled white vinegar + 16oz
Disinfecting cleaner: Mix 10-20 drops tea tree oil  + 16oz water
Floor cleaner: Mix 16 oz water + ½ tsp liq soap, ½ tsp borax, , splash vinegar or lemon (spray floor, mop)
Furniture polish:  Mix 1 cup olive oil with ½ cup lemon juice
Fabric softener: Add ½ cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle in place of store bought fabric softener.
Deodorizer:  baking soda is a natural deodorizer for closets, refrigerator, lockers, shoes, carpet, etc.
Mold and Mildew:  White vinegar or lemon juice full strength, apply with sponge and scrub.
Microwave Cleaner: Mix 2 Tbsp baking soda or lemon juice with 1c water in a microwave-safe bowl until boil.  Wipe down condensation and insides of microwave.  
Bathroom:   Use pure vinegar in the toilet bowl to get rid of rings and eat away soap scum and hard water stains, or use lemon juice to dissolve soap scum and hard water deposits (mix with vinegar or baking soda to make a paste).

Whichever non-toxic product or recipe you choose, you'll feel great knowing you are using products that are healthier for you, your family, and the environment.  Happy Cleaning!
Green This! by Deirdre Imus

Monday, October 25, 2010

Green Time

I absolutely love the SPROUT watch line that I found, and it will most likely end up on my Christmas Wish List!   Not only are the watches stylish, reasonably priced at $30-$65, available at large retailers such as Kohls, Sears, Kmart, and Nordstrom, but they are also eco-friendly and offer many colorful options to suit your moods. 

One of the things I really like about the line of watches is that the cases and buckles are made of corn resin, which is a renewable resource.  It is also 100% biodegradable in the proper compostable environment, but will not degrade from everyday wear and tear since the corn resin is similar to synthetic plastics.

The watch straps are also made from 100% organic cotton, which means no damaging environmental pesticides used to make the cotton for their straps.  Sprout reports that non-organic cotton, "is one of the
most environmentally damaging crops to grow, as about 84 million pounds of pesticides are sprayed on US cotton crops alone in one year."  Their commitment to detail about the parts of these watches is truly inspiring, and should serve as a terrific example of what companies can provide to their customers.  

The natural bamboo dial is also a plus since bamboo is considered to be eco-friendly.  Bamboo is a quick-growth plant that helps absorb greenhouse gasses, is renewable within a short period of time, and is grown with little or no pesticides and fertilizers.

Finally, Sprout watches have mercury-free batteries, and are packaged with at least 80% post consumer fibers!

I love the philosophy of this company, and I hope Santa will slip one of these eco-friendly watches into my stocking this year!!!   Hint, hint, Santa, I've been a good, eco-conscious, green goddess this year!  Winks and kisses Santa!!!


Thursday, October 21, 2010

One step forward, two steps back

I'm REALLY disappointed that Frito-Lay caved in on their compostable SunChips bags!

So what if the bag is a bit noisier than what people are used to?  What??? The bag wakes up a roommate?  Ummm maybe they shouldn't be eating that late at night, it's not all that healthy to begin with!  So stop sneaking snacks in the middle of the night...problem solved! OR pour some chips into a bowl and then eat them!  Do roommates also complain about the FZZSTTTT of the soda or beer can being popped open?   Do we need silencers for cans?  Or the clickety clickety of the laptop keyboard or texting? 

Consumers are so fickle, that they won't buy a product they like due to packaging?  Well, it's too bad because Frito-Lay WAS at the forefront of changing consumer's thoughts and attitudes towards packaging.  And just think, they had responded to consumer demand for more eco-friendly sustainable packaging!  I for one, was a huge fan of the compostable bags.  I didn't care one bit that they were noisier because I knew that after we'd finished the yummy, crunchy chips, the bag would not litter a landfill, and to me that's more important than the crunch of the bag.  In fact, I got a kick out of adding it to our compost, crinkle and all!

Wasteful, landfill clogging packaging in general drives me CRAZY,  which was why I was so happy to be able to compost the Sun Chips bag.  It's time that companies become more responsible for more sustainable packaging, more eco-friendly processing, and become environmental stewards and good examples for consumers.

Personally, I believe laws are needed to push companies to create sustainable packaging.  Without a push, most companies take the cheaper, easier, petroleum-dependent-plastic way out.  If Frito-Lay hadn't caved in, would consumers get used to the bag?  I think their products could stand up to the complaints and they'd still profit because it's the product that consumers are buying to eat, and their products are good.

To their credit, Frito-Lay says they are developing the next generation of biodegradable bags.   And I'll be sure to let you know what I think of it when it finally arrives on the market!  Until then, I'll still be pushing for more responsible, eco-friendly, sustainable packaging and buying the original Sun Chips which will still have the compostable bag  :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

M is for Mycobacterium vaccae...

Over Columbus Day weekend, I was able to get outside and do some gardening, and reconnect with the Earth.  I collected some hot peppers, green beans, some tomatoes, the last of the cucumbers from the garden, and did some cleanup too.  
I also was able to plant a few perennials that my mother and sister shared with me, mowed some of the lawn, did a little bit of pruning, and dug up and replanted some perennials that were crowded.  It felt so good to be digging in the dirt!  Working in the garden always makes me happy; I love the exercise, I love the results, and I love the DIY factor.  And, I feel better when I work in the garden for good reason.

As mentioned previously in my blog, I read about 
research at Bristol University and University College London.  Researchers there have discovered that the harmless, naturally occurring soil bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae helps elevate your mood.   Christopher Lowry, a neuroscientist at the University of Bristol in England, thinks that "the bacteria activate immune cells, which release chemicals called cytokines that then act on receptors on the sensory nerves to increase their activity."  Mycobacterium vaccae, may also be able to alleviate depression, and activate serotonin-releasing neurons in the brain.   

So, gardening does lift my mood, and weeding, digging in the garden, planting, etc. could help get you in a good mood too.  Even a walk in the woods may do the trick because scientists believe that simply inhaling the bacteria results in a healthy dose.  Lowry indicates, “you can also ingest mycobacteria either through water sources or through eating plants—lettuce that you pick from the garden, or carrots."  So what are you waiting for?  Get out there and get down and DIRTY and in the process enjoy some natural prozac in the form of a small bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae.   

Lowry's Study “Identification of an Immune-Responsive Mesolimbocortical Serotonergic System: Potential Role in Regulation of Emotional Behavior,” by Christopher Lowry et al., published online on March 28 in Neuroscience.


Monday, September 27, 2010

L is for LUNCH

Stomachs gurgle, eyes turn to look up at the clock...then the bell rings!  Yeah, time for lunch and RECESS!!!

Over 76.6 million children look forward to lunch and recess.  It's when they get to chat with friends, refuel with lunch, and get some fresh air and exercise.  These children consume homemade lunches and cafeteria food, and when they are done, they produce an astounding amount of lunch related trash.  On average, school-aged children eating disposable lunches generate about 67 pounds of waste per year.  For an average sized elemenatary school that translates to about 18,000 pounds or 9 tons of lunch waste that ends up in the landfill.

So what ends up in the 9 tons of trash at an average school?  Just think about what you send you children in their lunch, or what they eat in the school lunch they buy, and then consider what they don't eat and what goes in the trash...

Paperbags, plastic ziplocks, packaging from chip bags, cookies, cheese sticks, and yogurts, juice boxes, milk cartons, banana peels, apple cores, peach pits, and lots and lots of uneaten food is thrown out.  If you saw the amount of food that goes into the trash your stomach would turn.  I've seen the food wasted at snack time and at lunch time...and I can hear my parent's voices in my head, "that food could feed many starving people, don't waste food!"  I'm also saddened by the amount of trash that could be recycled but is not.

It's estimated that 380 billion plastic bags (about 1,200 plastic bags per person/per year), and about 2.7 billion juice boxes are thrown away each year. (Earthworks Group, 2009)  When I read the statistics about plastic bags I quickly calculated that my family would use on average 7,200 plastic bags made from non-renewable petroleum products per year.  YIKES!  So over the course of the last year, I've switched the family over to using reusable sandwich and snack bags.  Via a school fundraiser, I bought wrap-n-mat which I like because it provides a clean surface for the sandwiches to set on instead of the germy lunchtable.  Then I discovered, and   I bought a few of each brand and was hooked on them!  They are easy to clean, and can be reused over and over, and are made of food-safe materials.  We also use small glad plastic containers instead of plastic bags for muffins, and other things that stand up better in a rigid container (and to appease the pickiest of all..the teenagers in the family who are not easily swayed by my eco-conscious reasoning...they just find it hard to be "cool" using my awesome eco-snack and sandwich bags).  I must comment that the kids, hubby, and I have had many positive comments about our fun, colorful reusable bags, and we are often asked for info about the bags, which we readily share.  Recently my sister sent us some new bags called Lunchskins  and those have been a nice addition to our collection as well.

To transport our lunches, we've never used paper lunch bags (except on field trips when we can't stow the reusable items).  Instead we have a variety of lunch "boxes".  We have pretty, stylish Vera Bradley lunchbags  for my fashionistas, LLBean lunch boxes, and Built BYO lunch bags available at Target, Kohls, etc. 

So it really couldn't be easier to bring a waste-free lunch...with sturdy lunch bags from LL Bean, or pretty choices from Vera Bradley, taking your lunch can even be a fashion statement!  There are many waste-free, accessories such as reusable stainless steel or aluminum water bottles that can be used to keep hydrated throughout the day, reusable, non-plastic snack and sandwich bags, and cloth napkins.  Instead of plastic utensils, encourage your family to take regular silverware and return it.  With all the various reusable items, there are so many options for decreasing our waste, and the costs associated with it.

As for food waste, much of it could be composted, and recycled into "brown gold" by the humblest of decomposers, the Earth worm.  Greening of school lunches could easily be integrated into the school curriculum.  Setting goals to reduce waste, bring waste-free lunches, sorting out recyclables, composting, graphing waste reduction and disposal savings could all be integrated into science, math, and even writing curriculum.  I wholeheartedly believe that providing children with opportunities to learn about positive environmental habits will lead to lifelong attitudes about sustainability and environmental stewardship. 

The new 50 Simple Things Kids Can do to save the Earth, Earthworks Group, Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, Kansas City, 2009

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Back to School Supplies

Wow, back-to-school prep and activities have been keeping us pretty busy!  We are finally settling into the schedules for 4 different schools, homework, sports, and other soon as September comes, it's like the pulse of the family starts to race!

The back-to-school supply lists that come home are usually pretty classic, including scissors, pens, pencils, notebooks, crayons and markers.  Even before my family had school supply lists, in fact as soon as each child was old enough to hold a pencil, they've been scribbling, doodling, and creating with Crayola products.  I guess you could say, they've always been a family favorite.  This year when it was time to sift through the supply lists for my kids, it brought a smile to my face and warmed my heart when I learned about Crayola's new "Eco-Evolution" and the greening of their products by using renewable energy, protecting the rainforests, and by reducing waste.

Sweet Pea was the first to notice the new initiatives by Crayola.  She brought me her crayon box and showed me that they now are using solar power to make 1/3 of their crayons, which is equal to about a billion crayons each year made with solar power.  To accomplish this, they built a 15-acre solar farm with 26,000 panels.  Pretty impressive!  Wonder if they'll name a crayon, "solar panel blue"?

To "green" their colored pencils, they produced them with reforested wood which is wood taken from special tree farms grown specifically for harvesting, and not from tropical rain forest.  Crayola plants new trees for every one tree used to make the pencils.  Maybe they should name one of the green pencils "sustainable harvest green"  :)

And black is now in vogue at may have noticed that Crayola colored markers have black barrels instead of white. Crayola is now using recycled plastic bottle caps to make the marker barrels.  In addition, plastic scraps from making marker casings are crushed into tiny pellets and put back into the system. The black color of the barrels allows more recycled plastic to be used, in turn keeping 1 million pounds of plastic bottle caps and scrap plastic out of  landfills.

During my back-to-school supply shopping, I found a "green" highlighter by Pentel.  It is part of the new Recycology™ the Science of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle program, which Pentel developed "to enhance its mission of helping the environment by creating less waste and increasing recycling activity" through innovative product design and manufacturing.  With this line of products, Pentel's goal is to "protect natural resources and the environmental at all stages of the manufacturing process" and it is accomplished by using a minimum of 50% recycled content (excluding consumable content and refills).   

The Handy-lineS, ultraslim highlighters I found are made from 54% post consumer recycled plastic.  I also like that they are retractable and refillable, creating less waste.  Even the packaging is made from cardstock that is 100% recycled, and the plastic blister front piece is a minimum of 25% recycled material!

There are many outstanding products in this line, including the popular mechanical pencil leads which come in 100% recycled plastic case, many pens, white board marker, and permanent markers made with 50-80% recycled plastic .  I like that Pentel is recycling products that would otherwise end up in the landfill. 

Paper Mate also has green products that are impressive.  Their line of biodegradable pens and pencils, have barrels that unscrew and are made from corn-based material.  After removing the interior plastic/ink piece that is not biodegradable, the barrel decomposes in the compost or landfill in about a year.  They also have products made from recycled materials such as their correction film (67% recycled material), ball point pens made with 70-80% recycled materials.  I found the Earth Write pencils and added that to our back-to-school supply pile.  These pencils are made from 100% recycled cedar.  They also participate with Terracycle one of my favorite eco-entrepreneurial companies that up-cycling materials using innovative designs   

So while there may have been a tad bit of back to school blues that banished quickly as our daily pace quickened ...we also found some back-to-school green to start the year off write ;)  I'm sure you found many green school supplies in your travels too.  Leave a comment to let me know what you've found! 


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ohh Brother!

After replacing my P-touch label cartridge, I looked at the old cartridge which is made of plastic and wondered if it could be recycled like printer cartridges.  So I wrote Brother an email to ask.  They got back to me right away to let me know that they do have a program to recycle consumables.

They subscribe to the 5R Concept:

Refuse:  Avoid purchase of environmentally burdensome materials whenever possible
Reduce:  Reduce waste material
Reuse:  Reuse waste material without processing
Reform:  Reuse materials in a different form
Recycle:  Reuse materials as resources

Their program to dispose of toner, ink, and used consumables is very easy.  You print out a free prepaid shipping label, and ship back the toner, ink, or P-touch cartridge.  According to their site, some of the components are remanufactured, some are reused, and unusable items are processed through WTE (waste to energy).
As I like to say, it never hurts to ask :)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

K is for KleanKanteen (or similar reusable water bottle)

Americans buy more than half a BILLION bottles of water every week! Enough to circle the globe more than five times!   And the funny things is, 1/3 of bottled water is actually filtered tap water, such as Dasani and Aquafina.  Other bottled water, that comes from freshwater springs, rain forests, and groundwater undergoes less testing than your tap water. Yup, that's right, Federal and state regulations require that municipal water sources, ie your tap water, be tested for bacteria hundreds of times per month, yet bottled water plants have to test their water once a week!

So for the convenience of drinking water that is not tested as frequently, we actually pay about $1-2 from vending machines, concerts, airports, etc.  That's about 2000 times more than the water from our own tap.   WHAT!?!  If that sounds crazy, it is!  Would you pay 2000x more for an apple, a banana, or a pizza?

And please don't  forget the plastic bottle that contains the convenient water...Americans throw out 38 billion empty water bottles a year, more than $1 billion worth of plastic. The oil used to make the plastic water bottles is equivalent to the amount of oil and energy to fuel 1 million cars.  And additional energy and fuel is required to ship these bottles around the Earth, and keep the bottled "gold" cold.  Then after all this water is consumed, there is the plastic bottle disposal issue.  80% of the bottles are disposed of in landfills or incinerated (resulting in toxins being released into the air), and it is estimated that it takes thousands of years to break down plastic.  

And if the plastic water bottles are made of oil, what about the chemicals that may be leaching out of plastic water bottles, and ingested?  There has been much press about this issue, and the single use bottles made from #1 polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) are often reused when they shouldn't be.  When reused, they can leach chemicals such as DEHA, a possible human carcinogen, and benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), a potential hormone disruptor. So unknowingly, by trying to reuse the bottle which you can't clean well enough, you are risking drinking harmful bacteria and chemicals with each sip.

So, bringing your own water on the go is sounding better and better, right?  Much less costly, much less impact on the environment, and healthier....

When choosing a reusable water bottle be aware that many are made of polycarbonate plastic, which may contain bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical linked to reproductive problems and heart disease. Look for bottles advertised as "BPA-free" products, and if you aren't sure, recycle that old plastic water bottle.

While there are many brands of reusable water bottles, I'm particularly impressed with Their stainless steel water bottles do not have a lining to scratch off, they are free of BPA, phthalates, lead and other harmful substances, dishwasher safe, and I like that the company takes sustainability seriously, and is a member with of 1% For The Planet. In addition, all of their packaging, from the hang tags on the bottles to the boxes and other materials to ship their products, is recycled from post-consumer waste or made from materials certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).  And finally, they've adopted a green shipping program to offset the carbon footprint from all orders placed through their online retail store.

So carrying your own clean "canteen" or reusable water bottle is totally hip and worth it :)  Do your research, pick a good stylish, healthy reusable water bottle, and say yes to your own tap water.  You'll stay hydrated, be saving money, and the planet in the process. 

sources:'  (Natural Resources Defense Council)