Posts tagged ‘eco-friendly’

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

the fixer

I was so encouraged by the spirit of this post about reusable bags, in part because it touched on my love of all things inherited.  Lucky for me, Tara[ “tar” (the road stuff) – “uh”], aka The Organic Sister, is way cool and allowed me to share her words with you.  Check out her story, I’m incredibly envious of her family’s up and coming adventure.

. . .

These canvas shopping bags are about 20 years old. They belonged to my mom; proof we’ve been living green before I even knew what it meant.

The average reusable bag has the lifespan of over seven hundred disposable plastic bags.

I love the fact they have lasted so long! Canvas shopping bags are the best; their durability is obvious. I’ve seen some reusable bags that were poorly made and had holes or broken handles within a year.

Repairing Vintage Grocery BagsThe red is even still bright!

Using canvas bags can save an average of 425 plastic bags per person, annually!

Our “vintage” bags (as the store clerk calls them) only recently broke a couple straps. We load them up pretty heavily and the stress started to show in two of the 8 bags’ handles.

Their canvas material makes them easy to repair: I just overlapped the two halfs of the broken handle by a few inches, and machine-sewed vertically and horizontally until it felt good and secure. Nothing fancy and it shortened the handles a bit but it extended their use at least another decade!

An estimated one million birds and 100,000 turtles and other sea animals die of starvation each year after ingesting discarded plastic bags which block their digestive tracks.

Other than some day owning family heirloom bags, want some more interesting reasons to switch to reusable bags? Click here:

Go Reusable Bags!

. . .

Yeah, hey, hey
When somethings dark, let me shed a little light on it
When somethings cold, let me put a little fire on it
If somethings old, I wanna put a bit of shine on it
When somethings gone, I wanna fight to get it back again

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, fight to get it back again
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

When somethings broke, I wanna put a bit of fixin on it
When somethings bored, I wanna put a little exciting on it
If somethings low, I wanna put a little high on it
When somethings lost, I wanna fight to get it back again

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, fight to get it back again
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

When signals cross, I wanna put a little straight on it
If there’s no love, I wanna try to love again

I’ll say your prayers, I’ll take your side
I’ll find us a way to make light
I’ll dig your grave, we’ll dance and sing
What’s saved could be one last lifetime

Hey, hey, hey
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, fight to get it back again
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Fight to get it back again, yeah, yeah, yeah
Fight to get it back again, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

A new favorite song of mine, fitting no?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

it’s in the bag

target tree

If you’re not already saving money at Target plan to start soon.  Along with smaller stores such as Whole Foods and Sprouts Farmer’s Market, Target will be giving a 5¢ credit for each reusable bag shoppers bring with them.

USAToday had the full story

The Target program, which will roll out on Nov. 1 at all 1,700 Target stores nationwide, could save billions of plastic bags. The chain posts upwards of 1.5 billion transactions annually — most ending up in more than one bag.

A pilot test in 100 Target stores earlier this year resulted in a hefty 58% reduction in plastic bags used, says Shawn Gensch, vice president of marketing. “The best-case scenario is that we’ll have 100% success and every consumer will use a reusable bag.”

I’ve been using my own bags at Target for a while, now I just get paid for doing it.  What’s not to like.


Monday, September 28, 2009

another look at recycling

We’ve been having an amazing time on our West coast road trip.  Even Toddler L and Baby S have been enjoying themselves.  At least that’s what I’m telling myself.  I’ve also been enjoying the time away from the computer.  A week without internet has been great for the whole family.  But I miss all of you.

Just so you don’t miss me too much here’s a re-post from January.  A little look into my life.  I hope you enjoy, I’ll be back soon.


Recycling should be second nature by now.  Unfortunately not every city, town or landlord agrees with that yet.  We are lucky enough to have a nice big trash bin right down stairs for all of our refuse.  I even went so far as to ask about recycling before we signed the lease.  “Don’t worry, they separate it” I was told.  Perhaps it was my desire to get settled, move forward, make a decision, whatever, but I bought that line.  It wasn’t until after we had moved in that it started to niggle at me as slightly unbelievable.  But being the trusting soul I am I kept playing along.  I was even so nice as to separate out the recycling items from our regular trash so those hardworking garbage plant workers wouldn’t have to open the bags and dig through our dirty tissues and food scraps for the empty cans.  After my year of trying to be good about reusable bags I decided enough’s enough.  I wasn’t buying the line anymore and something had to be done.  I was ready to do more and it started at home.  Unfortunately, the other tenants in my building aren’t so environmentally guilt-ridden as I so a mass protest to the management was out.  That left me to figure out my own solution.

A quick internet search and I was able to find my local recycling collection center.  Walser’s to the rescue.  I wasn’t looking for my 5 cents per bottle, I just wanted to know my stuff was actually getting recycled.

off to recycle my waste

off to recycle my waste

So I loaded up the car.  This was actually two weeks worth as I didn’t make it over last week.

bye bye recyclables
bye bye recyclables

All I had to do was unload my bags and I was on my way.  Except I waited to see the staff check to make sure I had properly sorted my items.  And I got a tour!  I was so excited to be dropping off my recycling and here I was going to get an inside look into where it all goes?  Hot diggity.  I wanted in!

mixed paper
mixed paper

I wanted to see where all my paper cereal boxes and tissue cartons were going to go.


And how about piling all my plastic bottles and containers into this big puppy.


Take a look at all the computers they had stacked up ready to ship out.  They go through tons of these.  Literally.  In fact, just last week, in one day they got 44 televisions.  And they’re considered a small operation!  I’m just glad they’re big enough to take my junk.  All gone.  Gone to become someone else’s headache.

metals (yep that's a full refrigerator getting the proper heave-ho)
metals/appliances (yep that’s a full refrigerator getting the proper heave-ho)

Did you know that so much of what we recycle here in the U.S. actually gets shipped to CHINA for recycling.  That’s right.  They put it in big containers and ship it to factories in China to do whatever it is recycling plants do.  But the factories in China don’t have the same labour laws, works standards or emissions controls that we do.  So in the end, how much is it costing the environment for us to recycle?  But not Walser’s!  They make sure all of their e-waste, metal, paper and plastic is all regurgitated right here at home.  Well someone else’s home.  I just got it out of my home.  But you know what I mean.

I’ll see you next week Walser’s!

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

the green party


I can’t believe it’s true.  Toddler L turned two yesterday.  And with kids’ birthdays comes birthday parties.  Luckily for me Toddler L doesn’t have a favorite cartoon character or TV show (he says TV when we turn on the radio, no TV may just warp his mind).  He doesn’t have a favorite book and he hasn’t requested his room be covered in dinosaurs or cars.  So for this year at least I got to choose what his birthday party would look like.  What was the inspiration?

Beans.  Yup, Heinz beans.

Not just any beans though, the baked beans in tomato sauce that are imported from England.  (Yes, a U.S. company makes a product only available in another country that is then brought here and sold as an import.)  When we found a big tin of them I thought they would be good for the party.  Then I looked at the tin and found inspiration in the colors.

We used Pingg for the invitations.  As much as I would have loved to send out handmade paper invites to all the kids we did the responsible thing and used their parents e-mail instead.


We were at a fabulous wilderness park with some less than fabulous metal picnic tables.  Decision 1 – cloth or plastic?  I heavily considered renting tablecloths but couldn’t justify the expense for a 2 hour party.  So we went with plastic that could at least be recycled after.  (I’m kicking myself for not bringing them home and using them for kids’ craft days.  I blame lack of sleep for that faux pa.)

Table decorations were kept pretty simple.  Beans tins (lots of beans were consumed in the making of this party) with flowers – some real, mostly paper – and a picture of Toddler L that I printed at home and attached to skewers.  The pictures are already being recycled into another project.  I also put out some rice filled bean bags I had made using the circles on a pillow case found at the thrift store.  The colors matched the tins perfectly.  The bean bags were later used for games.


We borrowed two canopies and put up some paper poms.  They were pretty easy but very time consuming.  The banner was printed at home and I strung the pieces on ribbon.  It now hangs in Toddler L’s room.


The food was kept simple.  We served pretzel Goldfish (Toddler L’s favorite food), pb & j sandwich cutouts, fruit, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (lovingly made by the husband), mini burgers made with organic beef (not pictured as they were cooking) and, of course, beans.

All of the serving dishes were from our kitchen.  We used compostable plates, cups and cutlery.  And thanks to some friends they actually got composted.  Along with the pillow case I found a sheet that matched the teal color.  I cut it up to make napkins which have since been added to our home collection.  There can never be enough napkins with kids around.


These are the burgers.  Aren’t they cute?  I think they were a big hit with kids and adults.


We did have bottled water as it’s a must for these hot summer days.  We had some large bottles for the adults and these smaller bottles for the kids.  I’m not a fan of plastic water bottles anyway but half full ones left lying around really get my goat.  We also had Sprecher root beer.  It’s the best root beer I’ve tasted, it’s from the husband’s hometown and it comes in glass bottles.  As a final option we made an apple, peach lemonade.  (It was delicious.  And it made me break the Compact.  I just didn’t have a pitcher big enough.  So I bought a beautiful glass dispenser with a tap.  I’ve never seen one in a thrift store, I’ve wanted one for years and I know I will use it forever, so I don’t feel too bad about the purchase.)


I don’t know many toddlers that need to be hyped up on sugar, they really have enough energy already.  (At least the one that lives with me does.)  So I thought mini cupcakes would be perfect.  For the kids at least, the adults got regular size indulgences – I need a full chocolate fix.  They came from BabyCakes Baking Company and were amazing.  I rented the cake stand from the shop so no added waste from making or buying one, and it was way cute.  The cupcake toppers were printed at home and will be recycled into whatever projects I can come up with.


The true highlight of the party though was the pond.  We bought a bulk supply of ranger approved food and handed it out to the kids to feed the ducks, fish and turtles.  It was better than any games or activities we could have brought with us.  It might have been better than the cupcakes.

All in all I’m pretty happy with how green the “teal” party was.  I don’t know that we had any trash as everything was either brought home for another use, recycled or composted.

Could we have made less of an impact and stayed true to the Compact?


Would it have been as fabulous and beautiful?


So in this give-and-take life I’m pretty happy with what I did to get what I got.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

tin can alley

A soup can is good for so many things.


A necklace.


A telephone.

can soap

A soap dispenser?

Artist Jack Bresnahan created these useful lids for the everyday soup can.  Granted a can can (I love that dance) be a flower vase or a toothbrush holder without any help but sometimes a little design creativity makes it just that much more appealing.  And a little less Compact.  But at least they’re green.  Bresnahan designed his toppers out of biodegradeable plastic, giving the recycled tin can yet another life.  Or nine lives – as a vase, a soap dispenser, a sugar pourer, a toothbrush holder, a bank, a desk caddy or tea and coffee canisters.

The designer was quoted as saying ‘anything that ends up in landfill is simply poor design’.  I couldn’t agree more.

What else can a can do?  How about two cans?  (sorry, couldn’t resist)

can tea

can flower

can money

can pens

can sugar

can toothpaste

can plain

via Dezeen

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

green box delivered

I’ve written before about my favorite green box.  Well, now there’s a new boy on the shelf.


I can’t remember the last time I had pizza from a box.  But if I did, I would want it to be one of these boxes.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

how green are you willing to go?

Gabrielle, over at Design Mom, took the plunge and went green.

And it’s gorgeous.


An old family piano that was in need of expensive restoration or replacement, both of which were out of the family’s budget, became a signature piece with just a little time and paint.

Unless your piece is a valuable antique don’t be afraid to get creative.  For the cost of a quart of paint (or less if you go Compact in how you acquire paint), you can be green, blue or cherry red.  Why replace, when you can re-do?

What can you add a little color too?

*I recommend low VOC paint for your projects.  Even if you’re not going green you can still be environmental about it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

going green to stay out of the red


The husband and I were talking earlier about how well the Compact is working for us.  And how we don’t really see making any huge changes at the end of the year.  But, even if we decide not to stay 100% Compact, we need to be aware of the gift trap.  It’s so easy to say “I need a gift this Saturday”, and run to the closest applicable big-box store.  It is definitely more challenging buying gifts used but we’ve done great so far.  And we’ve saved quite a bit to boot.

Didn’t your English teachers tell you not to start sentences with “and” and “but”?  I”m pretty sure mine did.  Good thing they’re not reading this.

But for those of you that are, here are some gift giving thoughts.  The first is by Tara at TheOrganicSister.  She writes about sustainable baby steps.  Among other things.  But that’s what we’re focusing on today.  Sustainable baby steps are things we can all do to start making a difference.  In small bite size pieces.  Easy, right?

When it comes to gifts, Tara has some great ideas of ways to stay out of Target.  Check out the full post here, meanwhile here are some points to get you going:

Buy Local – Did you know (a fabulous source for handmade items) has a Shop Local section which allows you to browse recently updated shops by location?  Support local artists and buy handmade at the same time.  Woo hoo.

Sustainable Materials – Try to avoid plastics, polyesters, hardwoods or any other non-sustainable materials. Many of these materials are not easily renewable and/or may produce toxins either in their manufacturing or during use. Opt instead for cotton, bamboo, wool, etc. Try to find organic when possible. This thought can apply to used items as well for you Compactors.

Educate – Instead of just buying things that are green, try buying things that teach green. Perhaps a vegetable gardening book with a few garden tools, or some shade grown coffee and a handmade mug with a “green” message.


What if you’re giving the party and want some sustainability?  How about ECHOage – the Eco Friendly Birthday Party.


Instead of bringing wrapped and packaged presents, guests simply RSVP and make secure online contributions that are pooled for the purchase of ONE memorable gift and to support ONE meaningful cause.

Guests are invited to an ECHOage birthday party online. Instead of bringing a wrapped and packaged present, guests simply RSVP and give a secure online contribution.  It’s that easy.  ECHOage pools all of the contributions.  The birthday child chooses ONE special birthday present from all their friends and makes a donation to the charity of their choice.

If your child is old enough (and caring enough) to understand the benefits of giving instead of receiving this could be a great way to encourage that philosophy.  And they still get a gift.  Every kid wants a gift.  And every kid’s friend’s mom is grateful to not have another gift to wrap or stuff in a gift bag.  I like the fact that the ONE gift is still selected by you.  A check is sent and you can buy your child anything your their heart desires.  Any ONE thing.

I’m not sure if two is too young to appreciate the giving, but I’m thinking Toddler L might be having an ECHOage party later this year.  (I wonder if I can do this for the husband too?  He’s really just a big kid.)  This is also the nicest way I can think of to dissuade people from giving more plastic toys than I can muster enthusiasm for.

I absolutely love this Young Einstein party idea from Design Mom.  It wasn’t intended to be sustainable or compacty, but I have it tucked away for future reference.  I think two is too young for that one.

Friday, April 24, 2009

have you been washed?


Green∙wash (gren’wosh’,-wôsh’)– verb: the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.

The (very considerate) husband, once again, pointed me in the direction of a truly interesting article.  If you didn’t catch this story on let me paraphrase.  And expand.

TerraChoice, a science-based environmental marketing firm created a study of environmental claims made by manufacturers of products typically found in major retailers across the nation.  I don’t think we can expect a performance by Brad Pitt (so unfortunate), but the findings can be categorized into seven sins.  Or at least TerraChoice thinks so.  They have created The Seven Sins of Greenwashing.  It used to be six sins, but then a seventh was found.  I sure hope that’s the last addition.  The Eight Sins has no ring to it.

The initial study was completed in 2007.  TerraChoice just released the 2009 study.  More claims are being made and an insignificant decline in greenwashing practices has been noted since the earlier study.  The study does not include names of exact products.  Apparently TerraChoice isn’t into pointing fingers.  It’s a darn shame, I’d love to know some of the worst offenders and what sins they are guilty of.

Thankfully, the group over at Slate was curious too.  They found four green products and rated them on an enviro-scam meter.  Maybe the movie will be a combination of Spiderman and Se7en.  Maybe that only made sense to me.

Back to Slate.  The products listed were:

  • Clorox “Green Works” Products – scam factor: 4 out of 10…My favorite bit is from Company representative Aileen Zerrudo.  “We tested products without fragrances and dyes,” said Zerrudo of the marketing research the company conducted.  Turns out test subjects were put off by fragrance and dye-free formulas’ resemblance to water, she said, and perceived them to be less effective.  Perhaps, but Seventh Generation’s “Free and Clear” line seems to be doing just fine.

  • Gas Saving Magnets – scam factor: 10 out of 10…I had never even heard of these before but apparently I’m not missing much.  Companies are really trying to capitalize on the financial crisis as well as the green movement by promoting magnets that ionize the gas in your car making it easier to vaporize.  I assume that means it would burn cleaner or last longer, or something.  How about a product, green or otherwise, that just doesn’t work.  At all.
  • Sephora “Natural Standards” Initiative – scam factor: 6 out of 10…According to Slate, Sephora’s manifesto claims that products sold in their stores that bear a green seal meet “high internal standards” with “the purest, most efficacious ingredients Mother Nature has to offer.”  The Web site astutely observes that “the term ‘natural’ is not regulated by the FDA,” and thus they “created [their] own standards for the natural products at Sephora.” I love that.  Can I create my own standards too?
  • “Green” Hand Sanitizers – scam factor: 6 out of 10…Hand sanitizers are convenient, portable, hygienic, healthy.  Or are they?  New green products claim to be.  The organic options might sound better for you, but the reality is that organic alcohol is still alcohol—and that’s the biggest threat to safety and health in the products.  In the meantime, stick to CleanWell, the 100 percent biodegradable, alcohol-free line. Yup, I double checked, that’s what’s in my bag.

So what do you think?  Are these the worst, or do you know of some pretty greenwashed marketing campaigns.  Go ahead, point your finger.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

monday – menus and more


Hello from Portland!

This will be an abridged Monday post as we are in Portland until Tuesday and therefore I haven’t done any shopping.  It’s hard to plan a menu without knowing what the sales fliers have to say but I do have some thoughts just based on what I know is in the kitchen back home.  Here’s what I’ve got so far…

Wednesday – pasta (something easy and painless as it will be a busy day of resettling)

Thursday – eggs in spicy tomato sauce (didn’t have this last week)

And that’s it as we are back on the road come Friday.  At least my grocery budget will be way under.  We’ll have to address the eating-out budget another time.

♦ ♦ ♦

In other news, I love a good hotel.  And that doesn’t mean super fancy with excellent room-service.  This is ‘good people’ kind of good.

Our accommodations in Portland were approved almost entirely based on the fact that the hotel is LEED Certified Silver.  (Don’t worry, explanation to follow.)  The Avalon Hotel + Spa is one of ten hotels in the world that has LEED certification.


One of the hottest trends in design is “Going Green”.  The U.S. Green Building Council developed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) ten years ago to provide a set of standards for environmentally sustainable construction.  When a construction project is Certified LEED it means they are compliant with these standards.

There are four levels of LEED certification:

  • Certified
  • Silver
  • Gold
  • Platinum

Five different design areas are evaluated within a construction project to determine each level of rating.  The five design areas are:

  • sustainability of the site
  • water efficiency
  • energy and atmosphere
  • materials and resources
  • indoor environmental quality

The higher the rating in each area the more credits a building earns. Each level of certification requires a higher number of credits. LEED Certification at any of the ratings requires rigorous attention and adherence to environmentally sound construction practices.

That’s all well and good, but what you really notice is how their commitment affects your stay.  The more common practices of placing cards on the bed and bath about washing sheets and towels are to be found, but so is a recycling bin in each room.  And they offer the most ingenious toiletry option – a soap bar that has a giant hole in the middle.  It’s really just a ring of soap.

Think back to the last time you were in a hotel for a night.  Did you use the offered soap?  Probably didn’t use the entire bar with one shower.  Didn’t take the leftovers home either, did you?  They got thrown away along with the 467 other half used bars of soap from that day’s housekeeping.  This soap eliminates that leftover bar.  I love it.  It’s probably cheaper than buying a full bar of soap anyway.  I’m sure this is going to be the new standard in hospitality.  Just as soon as every hotel offers in-room recycling.

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