Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Last Chance for Free Mulch!

Looking around there are many houses with their Christmas lights on, but here in New England we've been experiencing an unusually warm fall.  Just this week the temperatures have been in the 60s!  The freakishly warm weather allowed me the opportunity to get some yard work done this past weekend, get some fresh air, and get a dose of Mycobacterium vaccae, nature's prozac :)   Besides continuing tree cleanup from the October storm that snapped the leaf laden trees like twigs, there was still raking to be done, and lots of general cleanup. As they say, a gardener's job is never done. 

What to do with all those leaves?  Don't bag them up and put them in the trash!  That's like throwing away a gift from nature, free mulch :)  When I have an area where I want to create or expand a flower bed, I simply rake the leaves to that area, and mound up a pile about 10-24".  I leave the leaves there over the winter, and the rain and snow pack down the leaves, and instead of having to remove grass to create the bed, the worms and leaves do the work for me.  In other areas, I use a thick layer of leaves to prevent weeds from growing, and it is one less area that we have to mow.  I also use leaf mulch around the base of trees.  As the leaves breakdown, they release nutrients into the soil.  During the winter months the leaf mulch helps to insulate the tree, and during the warmer months, the mulch helps to maintain moisture around the roots of the trees. 

Some gardeners choose to chop up leaves with a mower or leaf blower/vac.  If we happen to be mowing a section of the lawn, we take advantage of the leaves being collected and chopped.  Then we empty the bag with grass/leaves where we want it.  You can use a 3-4" layer of leaf mulch blanket to tuck in your perennials for the winter, and nourish the soil in preparation for springtime.  Don't forget to add some leaves to your compost pile while you're busy raking.  In fact, you might want to rake a small pile of leaves next to your compost bin, so that you can scoop some leaves on top of your "greens" each time, layering for optimum composting. 

If I'm lucky, the weather will hold, and I will be able to get back to the yard work, tuck in a few more newly  planted perennials for the winter, and get another dose of Mycobacterium vaccae.  I hope you'll take advantage of nature's free mulch gift too ;)   Happy raking!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Grand Canyon Adventures Continued

Hiking into the Grand Canyon from Hualapai Hilltop to Supa
After visiting Grand Canyon West and the Hualapai Tribe this July, (read more about our adventures at Grand Canyon West at we traveled about 36 miles on the dirt road to nowhere, and made it to historic Route 66 (Here It Is! The Route 66 Map Series).  We stopped and toured Grand Canyon Caverns, and were told it is the largest dry cavern in the US.  After taking an elevator down 21 stories, our guide showed us selenite and limestone crystals, a mummified bobcat, and the remains of  "Gertie" a 15 foot, 4 inch, giant ground sloth.  That evening, we drove a bit farther to Route 66's historic Seligman, and had a delicious, filling dinner at Westside Lilo's.  Hubby and I also enjoyed a well deserved, ice cold, refreshing beer (there are no adult beverages on Indian Reservations) :)   We picked up a few supplies, and then returned to Grand Canyon Caverns Inn for the night.  We filled our Camelbak Hydration Bladder, put them in the fridge, checked our backpacks for supplies for the upcoming hike into the canyon, and turned in for the night (that's an over simplification of the process of getting all 6 of us prepped, but you get the idea.) 

The alarm went off at 4am.  Uggh.  But, we needed to get an early start to reach the trail head and hike when it was cooler.  We woke the groggy crew, ate breakfast, inserted the Camelbaks into the Kelty backpacks, made sure the packs were adjusted, and packed the car.  We traveled down dark, vacant Route 66 a short distance to our 62 mile turnoff to Hualapai Hilltop.  The kids dozed, and the sun peaked out from behind the hills, and hubby watched for cattle in the road.  We arrived at Hualapai Hilltop just after sunrise, and were excited to begin the 8 mile hike into the canyon and the village of Supai, which is part of the Havasupai Reservation.  (Note: The name Hualapai Hilltop was confusing at first because we'd just come from the Hualapai Reservation at Grand Canyon West, yet Hualapai Hilltop is the trailhead leading down into the Havasupai Reservation, and the Village of Supai.)

The first mile and a half, was a series of steep, loose rocky switchbacks, and it was easy to loose your footing.  I recommend packing an Ace Bandage or two,  as well as a first aid kit with instant ice packs, and Band-Aid Advanced Healing Blister Cushions.  Thank goodness, we were prepared with these items because we ending up using them all even though we had proper hiking shoes and socks. It's almost inevitable when hiking on uneven, rocky terrain, for that distance!

We stopped and took lots of pictures along the way, but it's hard to do justice to the amazing, natural wonder of landscape that is the Grand Canyon, the varied terrain, the altitude, and the vivid colors.  I wish I could say that the kids were all soaking up the natural wonders around them, but alas there is always one who is less than enthused, which made the hike take a little bit longer than planned.  We took extra breaks to adjust hiking shoes, snacks, water, etc. to help along the way, and even the picture breaks provided short rests. 

After the mile and a half of switchbacks, the terrain leveled out, but the "soil" was made up of small to medium red rocks that are the result of canyon washouts.  At this point it was getting warm, and we made sure to sip water from the Camelbak hoses to keep hydrated.   The canyon walls stretched up to blue sky, and it was surreal to think that we were walking in the Grand Canyon that was formed 6 million years ago!  We did our best to stay in the shadiest parts for as long as possible, and the Columbia omni-shade shirts and hats helped to keep the sun off our skin, and wick away the moisture (Columbia Men's Bahama II Long Sleeve Shirt), 

I'm not going to lie...8 miles in July, in the Arizona heat, with temperatures in the mid-90's makes for a long 4 hour hike.  The last mile, as we approached Supai and began to see and hear water, seemed especially long because we really didn't have any idea how close we were to the village at that point.  When we finally reached Supai, I'm sure we looked like most tourists; we were hot, sweaty, exhausted, and a few were cranky.   But the icy cold drinks we sipped while we waited for lunch to be prepared in the nondescript air-conditioned Cafe began to revive us little by little.  And let me tell you, those expensive, calorie packed burgers and huge tacos were worth every penny.  Our lunch hit the spot, and helped to recharge us.  

We checked in to the Havasupai Lodge (don't bother trying to check in early), changed into bathing suits, and geared up for one of our ultimate destinations, and hiked to the first waterfall, Rock Falls a 30 foot waterfall.  After watching others jump off a small ledge underneath the main fall, we put on water shoes, swam over, climbed up the rocky edge, and leaped through the fall as the water from above prickled our skin.  It was exhilarating!  We watched as several courageous souls jumped from the top of the falls.  Rosebud and Rhody, wanted to jump, and we climbed to the top with them, to check it out.  OMG, it was high and scary!  First Rosebud, then Rhody launched off, jumping out so as not to hit the rock at the top that jutted out.  My heart was in my throat as they leaped into the beautiful, turquoise water, and I couldn't breathe until I saw them surface again (which seemed to take forever!).  They both amazed me with their bravery and for seizing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I hope they will always remember the thrill of jumping, and the adrenalin rush as they plunged into breathtaking Rock Falls.

Other links to check: Mooney Falls2012.html

Rock Falls in the Grand Canyon, north of Supai
Rock Falls - 30 foot waterfall
Rhody jumping from the lower ledge, through Rock Falls
Rosebud and Rhody seize the day and jump from the top of  Rock Falls!

Rock Falls - the "stairs" up to the 30' jump
Rock Falls from a distance

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Weathering Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene 2011

When Hurricane Irene came storming her way up the east coast, I'm not sure we thought we'd actually be in the dark...or at least not for as long as we were.  We prepared as best we could; we bought gallons of drinking water, froze Ziplock bags full of water, stowed all the outdoor chairs, tables, soccer nets, etc.  Hubby filled the second propane tank for the grill, and bought some canned goods and non-fridge food.  I did extra loads of laundry ahead of schedule, filled up the dishwasher and ran it, and gathered every candle and match book in the house.  We charged the electronics and cell phones, gathered the flashlights and batteries, and filled the bathtub with water.  We were prepared for the worst, and hoped for the best.  And then at 10:50 am on Sunday, we lost power.

I'm proud to say we weathered Hurricane Irene and the loss of power for 82 hours with as much green grace as we could muster.  We lost several trees, and large branches, and a section of fence was knocked down, and ultimately had to toss several pounds of meat, but luckily there was no damage to the house, and we still had running water.  For the first few hours, it felt like we were on an adventure, "Survivor Irene", but when the hot water ran out, the electronics ran out of charge, and the kids got bored playing board games, the forced "green" adventure turned the adventurers a bit grouchy.  Personally, I'd never experienced a power outage for 82 hours, and it really made me appreciate all the everyday things that we all typically take for granted in a developed country. 

We made due with less.  No electricity.  No hot water.  No microwave.  None of the modern conveniences we are accustomed to, switching on the lights, running the dishwasher, toasting a bagel, boiling water, reheating food, cooking, making coffee, throwing in a load of laundry, watching TV to name a few.  Keeping food cold in the cooler, washing dishes in cold water, and drying them in the sunlight, and later reading and functioning by candlelight made us feel like we'd stepped back into the 1800's.  At 6am on Monday morning, hubby began searching for more ice for the coolers.  He drove all over to find it, (none of the surrounding stores were open or had ice, so he drove further to a town we knew still had power), and to look for a generator at Home Depot or Lowes.  Of course they were sold out, but he put us on a waiting list to rent a generator to keep the food in the main fridge/freezer from spoiling.  28 hours into the outage he was able to rent one, and we were able to plug in the fridge, and a second extension cord to recharged cell phones, iPad, and iPods. 

As time went on, we developed a great appreciation for the power and appliances that we usually take for granted.  On the fourth day without electricity, we decided to try to boost morale (we were all quite grouchy by the time evening rolled around), and used the second generator plug to watch one of my favorite chick flicks,  Sweet Home Alabama.  We'd just about finished the movie, when the lights and fans came on!  The kids whooped and hollered, and we breathed a collective sigh of relief that we'd weathered Hurricane Irene.  Let's hope that the predictions from NOAA, for a higher than usual incidence of hurricanes and tropical storms, misses the mark, and we can pick and choose green choices a la carte instead of "a la Hurricane". 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Baring it All

I think Vanessa Farquharson, author of the eco-chic book, Sleeping Naked Is Green: How an Eco-Cynic Unplugged Her Fridge, Sold Her Car, and Found Love in 366 Days would agree that "Bare" by Solo is a great line of products. Farquharson's book, which is organized so that I could read it in short snippets (which is key when you have the distractions of 4 kids, a household to run, and work), is definitely one of my favorites.  We were already implementing many of her ideas on our own, but I learned lots of green tips, and have implemented the ones that make sense for my family...A la Carte Green style  of course :)  I wonder if Vanessa knows about the Bare products?  Anyway, I digress...

Back to the Baring it All...Solo's "Bare" is being used by the eco-conscious, eco-forward Bentley University to promote sustainability throughout the campus in their dining areas and throughout their catering department.  To accomplish this, Bentley uses paperboard Bare cups for coffee.  The coffee cups are compostable, and made with renewable resources. 

I decided to investigate Bare a bit more, and upon review of the Bare Solo website, I discovered that they have a whole line of products; the "Bare is Strong" 10" renewable plates made with plant-based renewable materials; the stylish "Bare is Elegant" 10"compostable plates, 8.25" lunch compostable plates, 6.7" compostable desert plates, 20oz compostable bowls - are  all made from renewable sugar cane, and are compostable; the "Bare is Natural" 14oz compostable cups are made from bio-based plastic (made from plants like corn); and the "Bare is Clear" line of 18oz recyclable cups, which are made from 20% post-consumer recycled plastic.

IMHO, Solo's Bare line of products has shown that being eco-conscious, and having eco-forward thinking, and eco-forward convenience can be sexy and sustainable at the same time ;) 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Popeye and Olive Oyl would be proud

In the old cartoon, Popeye the Sailor, the hero Popeye downs cans of spinach to have super human strength, while his girlfriend Olive Oyl swoons over him. 

Today we know that Popeye was a pretty smart sailor because spinach is an excellent source of fiber which lowers your risk of diabetes and heart disease, Vitamin A which contributes to good vision, and Vitamin C and Folate which contribute to the reduction of fatigue.  It is also a good source of Vitamin K and Manganese, which contribute to healthy bones, and Potassium which helps maintain normal blood pressure. 

The trick is to sneak these health benefits into meals.  We add fresh spinach into salads, and wilt spinach with olive oil (Popeye's girlfriend Olive Oyl would be so proud), and we also get the kids to eat spinach disguised in a yummy spinach dip, that we dip veggies into.   For me, fresh, dark green, spinach is preferable to the canned kind that Popeye loved, but however you can get the kids and yourself to eat it, spinach is the ultimate green, so give it a try. 

We've purchased fresh spinach in various packaging, sometimes plastic clam-shells that can be recycled, and sometimes pre-packaged plastic bags.  The other night, I offhandedly checked the spinach bag, and was delighted to learn that Fresh Express (pre-packaged spinach and salads) uses "an eco-friendly wash that cleans salads better than traditional chlorine wash" and comes in a #7 recyclable pre-package bag!  I couldn't believe that the bag actually had a recycle symbol since so many bags that can be recycled do not.  Fresh Express scored points with me because not only is the spinach healthy for us, they are using a healthier rinse, and the bag can be recycled to boot.   I think Popeye and Olive Oyl would be proud too ;) 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Green Project of the Day - deux

As I mentioned, I'm in de-clutter mode!  And that means yet another green project is getting done.  The ideas are always flowing, but the energy to accomplish things isn't always equal to the brain activity that comes up with things...

So back in June, I made a gorgeous (imho) quilt for my god-daughter, which was quite green (I'll explain in a minute).  There were a bunch of  leftover squares from that project, so I decided to get one more green project out of the material, and make a second quilt for a new 2nd cousin.  Fast forward...I finally took the time to lay out the pieces to see if I had enough, and lo and behold there are enough pieces so I can just get started sewing!

Enough pieces left from prior project to make green project deux

The front of the quilt is completed
Why do I consider these quilts green?  All of the material (except the batting), is recycled from previous projects.  11 years ago my talented mother made a reversible bed spread, curtains, and dust ruffle for Tiger Lily when she shared a room with Rhody (we are talking baby Rhody).  At the time we bought enough material for the someday possibility of needed 2 matching reversible bedspreads (when Rhody was out of the crib).  As it turns out, we were lucky enough to be able to do an addition on the house, and thankfully Tiger Lily moved out into her own room a LONG time ago.  So my Mom returned the unused material, I've been storing it all this time, and have finally put it to good use in the two quilt projects.  The coordinating fabric, is also "green" because I got it from Recycling for Rhode Island Education (RRIE)    (see also )

Now if only recycled thread were readily available...

Saturday, August 13, 2011


I'm just getting around to writing about a green school fundraiser from Mixed Bag Designs.  I bought the pretty, functional, green "Foodies" which are a great alternative to plastic sandwich bags, and they were reasonable, two sizes for only $9.00.  And based on how they are washing up, these pretty 'lil things will last from elementary school through high school.

The reason I care about plastic bag alternatives is the staggering number of plastic sandwich bags that end up in American landfills each year.  Would you believe that approximately 380 billion plastic bags, or 1,200 per person get dumped each year?  (Earthworks Group, 2009).  And how long do those plastic bags linger in landfills?  20-1000 years!

Mixed Bag Designs are unique in that they are made from woven polypropylene, one the most popular plastics for making food containers like yogurt cups. Their website claims that 10-40% of the polypropylene in their Foodies and bags come from recycled post consumer use.  Foodies are not only food safe and FDA approved, they are also dishwasher safe, which is awesome for cleaning.

For additional waste-free lunch alternatives, and ways to eliminate plastic baggies from your lunch and the landfills, check out  "L is for Lunch" .  
The new 50 Simple Things Kids Can do to save the Earth, Earthworks Group, Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, Kansas City, 2009

Friday, August 12, 2011

Green Project of the Day

Beautiful Anniversary card from my parents
I was doing some decluttering, and it was time to take down our anniversary cards (thank you for the cards, I'm sorry to say I do not save every card, I just can't justify the paper clutter that six of us would have), and I instinctively put them in the recycle bin.  Yeah good job! 

And then I was thinking how pretty the cards are, and that with a little bit of trimming that would make excellent gift tags :)  So I pulled out my trimmer and got to work!   
Trimming the card.  You can use scissors if you don't have a trimmer.
You can trim the gift tags/cards to any size you want.
And the end result, are cute little cards/gift tags that can be attached to a gift either with a bit of tape, or hole punching and adding a little bit of scrap ribbon.  Viola!    Of course it goes without saying, that I recycled all the scraps left after I was done trimming :)    

Thursday, August 4, 2011

July was a blur...

...a glorious blur, full of wonderful memories.  This summer has been different from most summers because we planned a big trip, a once in a lifetime vacation to the Grand Canyon.  Spending our vacation immersed in nature was absolutely invigorating, and we will never forget the gorgeous scenery and weather we enjoyed, and spending time together enjoying one of the natural wonders of the world.

Our trip was not the typical, popular destination of Grand Canyon National Park.  We opted to avoid the summertime crowds that visit the National Parks, but instead we visited two of the Native American Indian Reservations, the Hualapai Tribe at Grand Canyon West (famous for their Skywalk) and the Havasupai Tribe, home to the gorgeous turquoise waterfalls that seem strangely out of place in the middle of the dessert.  Each locations was breathtaking, and worth every second, and we didn't seem to mind sweating in the midst of such beauty.

Panoramic views of the Canyon and Colorado River at Guano Point
Guano Point - the layers of the canyon are amazing
At Grand Canyon West, we hopped on and off of the shuttle to visit 3 different locations; Eagle Point, Guano Point, and Hualapai Ranch.  Eagle Point features a Native American Village with a walking tour of Native American dwellings, an handmade jewelry and crafts that the girls enjoyed perusing, and the glass Skywalk.  We skipped the expensive Skywalk in favor of other activities and hiking at Guano Point, where we saw gorgeous panoramic canyon views and the Colorado River that looked like chocolate milk. We took tons of pictures at Guano, and it is impossible to pick a favorite, but I've included a few :)
Sunset at Guano Point

Sunrise at Hualapai Ranch, view from outside of our cabin.
The third location, the Hualapai Ranch, which looks like an old western town, was a hit with everyone; the kids loved petting the horses, and we all tried our hand at tomahawk throwing (I couldn't do this to save my life!), and quick-draw (I was pretty darn quick).  Rhody loved hanging out with the cowboys and also tried out roping, and bow and arrow.  Our hosts also treated us to a van ride out to Guano Point to see the sunset, that was AMAZING.  After a hearty dinner at the Ranch, we enjoyed a campfire and s'mores under the stars, and listening to stories and songs.  We had a good night's sleep in our basic (no TV, but there was AC) but comfortable cabins.  The next day, in true cowboy style, there was an early morning wakeup for the sunrise, but as you can see it was worth the 5am wakeup!  After a nap and breakfast, we capped off the trip with a horseback ride to the rim, yeeeha!!    We bid farewell to the cowboys, Norman the cow (from the movie City Slickers), and the Hualapai, and continued eastward on our trip, eager for the next chapter :)

...Stay tuned for more Grand Canyon adventures and pictures :) be continued.... Mooney Falls2012.html

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Method to the Madness

The madness of dustbunnies, dirt, and pet you sweep or vacuum and turn around to the madness of more of the same?  Seems to be a never ending battle at our house.  But I have found an eco-friendly product to help with the madness.  My "Method" to the madness is the Method Planet Friendly Sweeper Dusters.  I love these dusters because they don't send the dust flying, but capture the dust, dirt, and pet hair electro-statically.  That's good news for our indoor air quality, but the best part in terms of the planet is that these dusters are made from corn and they are compostable and biodegradable.  Method even gets the package perfect...the carton is made from bamboo and recycled paper, and the cardboard sleeve that holds the carton shut is at least 15% recycled paper too. No plastic!

So when you think green cleaning, there is a good "Method" to the madness of dustbunnies, pethair, and dirt.  Give the Method Planet Friendly Sweeper Dusters a try, and when you are done, add them to your compost, not the landfill!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Well it's been awhile

Looking back, it's been an incredibly busy June and July!

June is always a hectic month with the kids finishing out school, final exams, sports banquets, end of year celebrations, soccer parties, gymnastics shows, band concerts, award get the picture.

This year, the day after school ended, we packed up and headed to the NJ shore for a week of fun in the sun.  If only the water line to the fridge hadn't burst, it would have been a nice relaxing week.  Thankfully our good friends were texting, calling, and emailing us to let us know about the flood, figured out how to turn off water to the house, and spent hours making headway cleaning up ceiling tiles, and mess that resulted in our finished basement.  Hubby, aka my hero, zoomed 5 hours to get home and deal with cleanup, allowing us to stay at the beach.  If there is any lesson to be learned, "know where the shut-off valve to your fridge line is", and then before vacation shut it off!  We've added that to our vacation checklist, right next to washing machine shut-off valves :)  Also, make sure the folks watching your home know where the water line shut-off, and other utility shut-off points are.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Be the change

One green choice at a time, you do make a difference.  So in the words of Mahatma Gandhi,
“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

U is for Upcycle...

What is upcycling?  How is recycling defined?  And, aren't upcycling and recycling the same? 

Let's start with the more familiar, recycling.  Recycling, is also called downcycling, because it involves converting materials and products into new materials of lesser quality.  Most recycling converts or extracts useful materials from a product, and results in the creation of a lesser quality product.  Plastics are a good example because during the process of recycling, different types of plastics may be mixed together creating a hybrid, which is often a lesser grade material.  Similarly, used office paper is not converted into new office paper, but is reused to produce different materials such as paperboard. 

According to, recycling is defined as: 1- to treat or process (used or waste materials) so as to make suitable for reuse: recycling paper to save trees; 2 - to alter or adapt for new use without changing the essential form or nature of: The old factory is being recycled as a theater.

Upcycling, a less familiar and relatively newer term, is not as widely used, but is coming into vogue.  The first recorded use of the term "upcycling" was in 1994.  Since then, it's been popularized in several books, including Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things.  In the book, authors William McDonough and Michael Braungart explain that the goal of upcycling is to prevent wasting potentially useful materials by making use of existing ones.  This concept results in the reduction of new raw materials used to create new products, and also results in less energy use, and less pollution.  Doesn't this remind you of the definitions of  recycling?  According to Wikipedia, upcycling is "the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value."    But who determines if a new material or products has a better quality, or a higher environmental value? 

Some argue that in the strictest sense, upcycling is the recycling of a material to produce a fresh supply of the same material.   Based on this definition of upcycling, the processing of aluminum cans, glass, and newsprint into new cans, bottles, and newsprint is the closest to a purist upcycling model because the cycle can continue endlessly, and the processes save huge amounts of energy when compared to making products from virgin materials. 

I submit that the purist definition of upcycling should be the goal.  Wouldn't it be an amazing if humans could figure out how to stop extracting oil to run their cars, and manufacture plastic this and thats?  Imagine being able to continually reuse, recycle, or upcycle all the existing plastic that is omnipresent instead of making new plastic from oil?  We're not there yet..but with incentives, research, and collaborative, diplomatic efforts between countries worldwide we could be there.  

Does it really matter if the definition of recycling, "to alter or adapt for new use without changing the essential form or nature of" is very similar to the purist definition of upcycling, “recycling materials to produce a fresh supply of the same material"? 

Perhaps we should just simplify, and quote Benjamin Franklin’s, “Waste not, want not”…Or maybe we should recycle all these definitions, meld them together, and add in a sprinkling of new upcycling verbiage.  The new and improved melded definition of upcycling would read:

Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products, or reusing otherwise hard-to-recycle items, into new materials or products of equal or better quality, or a higher environmental value.  Purist upcycling results in the recycling of materials to produce a fresh supply of the same material, with little or no degradation of the material (ie. aluminum, newsprint, glass).   The goal of all upcycling is to prevent the waste of potentially useful materials by making use of existing ones, the reduction of new raw materials used to create new product, resulting in conservation of energy during production, and the reduction of pollution.    

Rebagz stylish upcycled bag
There are plenty of examples of upcycled products and companies working towards providing useful products that have less of an impact on the environment.  These companies, and their products can serve as fantastic models for other companies big and small to emulate.  Some of my favorite examples are Terracycle, Inc.,  Rebagz®, Polartec, and Artsy Fartsy.

TerraCycle Inc., an international company that I've written about in the past, turns hard-to-recycle items into eco-friendly products, and reuses items otherwise bound for the landfill such as M&M packages, chip bags, Capri Sun juice pouches, flip-flops, pull-tabs, cookie wrappers, etc.   From these unlikely "raw materials", they make useful, products such as totes, pencil cases, kites, purses, and more.  It is their ingenious use of hard-to-recycle materials plus ingenuity that has propelled TerraCycle to the forefront of the Upcycling movement. 
Rebagz®, created by Marty Stevens-Heebnerline, is another example of how fashionable upcycling can be.  Rebagz® unique, chic bags are made from nylon rice sacks, and juice packs, and have been featured in InStyle, More, and Marie Claire magazines, as well as on The Today Show. Rebagz® are redefining fashion one bag at a time, with "Style. Strength. Sustainability".   Making upcycling fashion-forward and chic, launches Rebagz® to the top of my wish list, and these bags will definitely be added to my wishlist!

Veteran upcycler Polartec®, has been offering recycled Polartec® Classic fabrics since 1993.  Polarfleece®, the #1 selling fleece brand, is a household name where temperatures get chilly.    Polartec® continues their quest to reduce their overall footprint, and Polartec, LLC and Unifi have announced a new partnership introducing performance fabrics made with REPREVE 100. The new eco-engineered REPREVE 100 is made from 100% post-consumer waste (clear plastic water bottles).   Polartec® is committed to saving energy, reducing their reliance on non-renewable fossil fuels, reducing the amount of waste put into landfills, as well as harmful emissions deposited into the atmosphere.  Watch a video on their amazing eco-engineering to learn more about their ingenious product, and you'll learn more about why they have catapulted to top of the fleece market.

Even small cottage industries know how to upcycle creatively, and sell distinctive eco-inspired pieces!  Artist and designer, Susi DuPuis, took the saying, "One man's (or woman's) trash, is another man's (or woman's) treasure", and allowed her imagination to soar.  She is the brainchild behind the creative jewelry collection called "Artsy Fartsy, recycled plastic jewelry", and her creations are inventive, colorful, and fun.  Check out her collection of funky, eye-catching jewelry made from common household plastic containers.  If you look closely enough you may even spot a logo or two.  Artsy Fartsy's "green bling", often launches conversations about the importance of reusing resources in a new ways, and recycling with a functional element. 

From my perspective, no matter how you slice it, shred it, dice it, crush it, or reuse it, both recycling and upcycling, result in the reduction of the use of raw materials, the use of less energy to produce goods, and the prevention of huge amounts of material from an eternity in a landfill entombed in a toxic melting pot.  And since that's the ultimate goal, it doesn’t really matter whether we interchange the words recycling and upcycling :)


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Great Green Gifts for Mother's Day

Mother's Day is almost here,                                     
and I got to thinking...
besides a poem from the kids,
what kinds of gifts would
spread a grin from ear to ear
for eco-moms far and near?

Here are more than a dozen ideas that may elicit a smile from your favorite eco-chic Mom:

  • To keep mom looking fashionable in "greenware", try this beautiful bamboo pashmina.  It will help her make a smooth transition from season to season, and she'll be fashionably green as  well.  
  • Wet her whistle, while keeping it green, literally :)  These pretty green, upcycled glasses help to  "protect our Earth", and are a useful, beautiful gift for any eco-Mom.
  • What better way to say, "Thanks for bee-ing there Mom," than the natural products from Burt's Bees?  Burt's Bees has lip, face, body, and hair products that are 99-100% natural.   I love their tinted lip balm to keep my lips soft and kissable :)
  • Is Mom a shop-a-holic?   Help green her sprees with some eco-chiq green shopping bags, lunch and snack totes, laptop cases, and more.  I recently purchased one of these bags through the school's green fundraiser (yeah!).  These bags are woven from polypropylene recycled from post consumer use, easy to wipe clean, and are really, really pretty and functional.  Most of the bags can hold up to 50 lbs, due to the  woven plastic fibers.

  • How about a new green time piece for mom?  Help her keep time with a beautiful new green watch from SPROUT. The sporty watch's case and buckles are made of corn resin, which is a renewable resource, and the bamboo dial, and organic cotton are also eco-friendly.

  • Maybe Mom will be entranced by the green gift that has tickled my fancy?  I love the upcycled GrowBottle Hydrogarden.  The re-purposed wine bottles come with organic seeds, clay pebbles, and a wool wick that makes themamazing hydroponic mini-gardens for culinary herbs.  I've been intrigued with hydroponics since my visit to The Land at Epcot as a young girl, and I'd love to try this unique upcycled mini-garden some day.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Life is...

Life is like a can't change how it breaks, but you can change the way you ride it...

Friday, April 29, 2011

Happy Arbor Day 2011!

Did you know that the last Friday in the month of April is National Arbor Day?  That's today!

 I love trees.  Since I was very little, I've loved looking at trees, drawing and writing poems about trees, climbing trees, planting trees, and enjoying how beautiful they are.  During the hot summer months, I used lay at the end of my bed, staring out the window at the silhouette of trees.   They truly are a gift of nature, a gift of our planet.

So what is National Arbor Day all about?   According to the National Arbor Foundation, "Arbor Day is a nationally-celebrated observance that encourages tree planting and care."  It was founded by J. Sterling Morton in 1872, and each state, as well as other countries around the world, celebrate in some way.  

Arbor Day Foundation's mission statement is, "we inspire people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees".  According to the World Resource Institute, there are approximately 100,000 reasons to celebrate, or 100,000 known species of trees that exist throughout the world.  If you need a reason or two to celebrate trees besides them being aesthetically pleasing, here are my top 10 reasons to plant a tree:

1.  Trees remove CO2 from the air, reducing the impacts of greenhouse gases and climate change.

2.  trees produce oxygen that is necessary for life on Earth, and are good for your overall health.

“One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen. This is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people.” —U.S. Department of Agriculture

“In laboratory research, visual exposure to settings with trees has produced significant recovery from stress within five minutes, as indicated by changes in blood pressure and muscle tension.” —Dr. Roger S. Ulrich Texas A&M University

3.  Trees can add value to your home.

 “Landscaping, especially with trees, can increase property values as much as 20 percent.” —Management Information Services/ICMA

4.  Trees help cool your home and neighborhood.

5.  Trees break the wind, and reduce both  heating and cooling costs.

“The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.” —U.S. Department of Agriculture

“Landscaping can reduce air conditioning costs by up to 50 percent, by shading the windows and walls of a home.” —American Public Power Association

“If you plant a tree today on the west side of your home, in 5 years your energy bills should be 3% less. In 15 years the savings will be nearly 12%.” —Dr. E. Greg McPherson, Center for Urban Forest Research 

6. Trees improve water quality.  Trees help to filter water, improving water quality and groundwater recharge. 

7.  Trees reduce runoff, which also increases groundwater absorption, and allows for groundwater recharge, which in turn is a source of drinking water for many Americans. 

8.  Trees prevent erosion.  The roots of trees help to prevent soil erosion which can lead to the siltation of streams and wetlands, and loss of property.  

“The planting of trees means improved water quality, resulting in less runoff and erosion. This allows more recharging of the ground water supply. Wooded areas help prevent the transport of sediment and chemicals into streams.” —USDA Forest Service

9.  Trees provide food and shelter for wildlife and birds.

10.  Trees help to maintain biodiversity by providing shelter, food, and habitats for wildlife and birds.

    You can become a member of the National Arbor Foundation for as little as $10, and they will send you 10 free 6-12" trees that will grow into beautiful mature trees as a thank you (you even get to choose from a list of trees).  I'm looking out the window now at my beautiful flowering tree that looks like it's decked out for the spring prom.  I received this tree as a gift from National Arbor Foundation many years ago, and it's grown into a stunning beauty that I'm still enjoying today, and hopefully will be for years.

    There is tons of great information on the Arbor Day Foundation website where you can learn about tree care and planting, tree identification, free landscaping ideas, join the tree forum, and much, much more.  It's worth checking out at There is also an amazing glossary of tree terms

    I hope you'll decide to celebrate National Arbor Day in some way too, whether it is today, tomorrow or in the future because without trees our planet just wouldn't be the same :)  Happy Arbor Day!