Posts tagged ‘living green’

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.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

eco-me cleans up


Eco-me has created some really great packaging for all natural household cleaners.  So all natural in fact you already have them in your house.  And some of you are probably already using them to clean with.  (Oil, vinegar, water and baking soda.)  There’s even a DIY kit so they sell you the great packaging and you provide your own ingredients.  Minus the secret mix of essential oils.  I’m just not sure a mix of tea tree, lavender, lemongrass and rosemary are worth the cost of packaging and shipping the packaging.

If these products help some people kick the toxic habit then I’m all for it.  (Apparently they work really well, but you probably knew that.)  I just hope I can have a brainstorm idea to make money selling people what they already own.

Do you use essential oils in your cleaning?  (I’m collecting recipes so I don’t have to buy the packaging.)

via Design Mom

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

Friday, May 22, 2009

friday forum

Another week with nothing to throw away.  I have to admit, I feel like I’m doing something wrong.  I mean really, if Kristen at The Frugal Girl (she’s the reason I tell you this each week) has waste how can I not?

I must not be cooking properly.  Or it’s because I don’t use fresh herbs.  They intimidate me.

I have a 2″ square of tofu that will be up next week if I don’t think of something to do with it fast.  Maybe an egg and tofu scramble this weekend could save me on that one.

I was also saved of some previously claimed waste.  That’s right, I’m reclaiming my waste.


ignore the moldy bread, it's the freezer burned chicken in the bag

The chicken in this photo is no longer waste.  Thanks to the great recommendations by Jonathan Bloom’s readers over at Wasted Food I will be using it for some soup in the near future.  Check out his post about my near wasted food and you will see what else I won’t be throwing away.  If you have something in the fridge or cupboard that you just don’t know what to do with, tell Jonathan.  He’s sharing our sad stories on his blog to help end the wasted food franchise.

Maybe between Jonathan and Kristen we will have to find something else to talk about on Fridays.


Oh wait, I have something else to talk about.


I was recently directed to check out Zero Waste Alliance.  Their thinking behind waste may be considered inovative by some, nothing new by others, and quite genius by me.

Waste is a resource in disguise.  It represents a failure of our processes and products and a loss of money.  We recommend that the entire concept of waste should be eliminated from our thinking and the word resource be substituted.

If only we could teach everyone to think of the object they hold in their hand when they think they are done with a product as a resource ready to be turned into something else instead of something to be gotten rid of by the quickest means possible.  (I know some of you already think this way [okay maybe not the run-on sentence part, or the parenthesis inside parenthesis part], this is directed at the people who will probably never read this blog unless they come across it while doing a search on Eddie Vedder and Twitter.  Hey, it happens.)

Zero Waste Alliance is doing just that.  In fact,

  • Interface, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia has eliminated over $165M in waste.
  • Xerox Corp., Rochester, New York has had a Waste-Free Factory environmental performance goal since the early 1990’s. The criteria include reductions in solid and hazardous waste, emissions, energy consumption and increase recycling. This program resulted in a savings of $45M in 1998.
  • Hewlett Packard in Roseville, California reduced its waste by 95% and saved $870,564 in 1998.
  • Epson in Portland, Oregon has reduced its waste to zero and has saved $300,000.

How cool is that?


Another cool thing that’s really taking off.  Have you noticed all the press The Story of Stuff has been getting recently?  Not only did The Huffington Post and NPR each do pieces this month but it made the front page of the New York Times.  (Actually, the HP and NPR pieces followed the release of the NYT story, but press is press right?)  If you’re not one of the 6 million that have seen this 20 minute look at all the stuff in our lives, you really must check it out.

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.

Monday, May 4, 2009

got fun?


I have not worked in nearly 2 years.  For almost that long the husband and I have been discussing how to get on a budget.

Neither of these things were even a whisper of a thought when I decided to join the Compact.

I did it because I thought it made sense to be more sustainable.  And I love old things so why not make a commitment to renewing their use.  I started this blog to discuss how being a part of the Compact has affected our lives.  I know, I’ve strayed.  I can only hope somebody else has benefited from my work.  If not, I’m happy in the knowledge that my decision to Compact has opened up this whole new world of living to me.  Including finally getting that budget we’ve talked about for so long.

So what?  You say.  Say what, I say.

Say what I’m grateful for.  I like being a part of the Compact.  I like coupon clipping and finding a good deal.  I like cooking all our meals.

I also like doing things.  For fun.  You remember fun right?  There’s been a big push about frugality recently (yes, the new F word), and  many seem to see it as an end to fun.  I didn’t start this year thinking I would be frugal.  In fact, I don’t think I’d thought about the word since Frugal Rock.  Or was that Froogal Rock?  I’m old.  I can’t remember details.

All digressions aside, fun and frugal can coincide.  Saturday night we went to a baseball game at UC Long Beach.  Neither husband or I have an affiliation with the school.  We just thought it would be fun.  You know, something to do.  Tickets were a whopping $5 each.

Husband had a blast, Toddler L had a blast, and I love that more than I care that I don’t really care about college baseball.  It was a great night out.

It cost money.  So what?  If you forget to have fun, frugal really is a dirty word.

Monday, April 27, 2009

monday – menus and more


The second week home after a vacation or even a three day weekend is when everything starts to feel normal again.  I’m starting to feel normal.  I’m trying to build up my routines.

Boy #2 is due the end of June.  I have about 9 weeks of routine before all hell breaks loose again.  But in the meantime I’m making my lists, checking them twice…oh, wait, that’s another story.  Back to my story.  Grocery list, check.  grocery shopping, check.  Menu plan, check.

Let’s see what we’ll be eating…

Sunday:  leftovers

Monday:  chicken breasts, mashed cauliflower (I love this dish, it’s like mashed potatoes but healthier)

Tuesday:  boneless pork sirloin chops, sautéed carrots

Wednesday:  pancakes

Thursday:  WOHO (wife on her own)

Friday:  pulled chicken sandwiches, green beans

Saturday:  tuna pasta (not sure if this is going to be traditional with cream of mushroom soup or something lighter with flaked tuna, oil and some veg.  I guess it depends on the weather that day.)


Our budget was $80, we spent…

Sprouts Farmers Market – $9.09 (this was all of our produce [minus the bananas] and eggs for the week, amazed even me.)

Vons – $24.96

Trader Joe’s – $10.95 (I can’t believe how little I shop here now, I still don’t want to live without a TJ’s nearby but they used to be my go-to for almost everything.)

Walgreens – $22.41

Target – $7.86 (no food but household items that I consider part of the budget)

99¢ Store – $2.00 (potatoes AND bananas!)

Lots of stops this week but with a final total of $77.27 I think it worked out to shop around for the deals.  All of these stores are within a couple miles and typically on our way home from some other outing.


I came across this picture essay from about the foods and budgets of families around the globe.  Although it’s quite old it’s definitely worth checking out.  Can you guess which is the American family?




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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