Category Archives: green

5 Reasons to Attend Green Festival

Green Fest Banner NYCWhen we think of festivals, we oftentimes think of a community celebration – typically centered on music, food, or art. So it’s apropos that the “largest and longest-running sustainability and green living event” in America is the Green Festival®. Attendees enjoy music, food, and art as well as education and “green” products/services. Over the past 13 years it’s grown into more than a festival – it’s Festival Plus.

Green Festival visits five U.S. cities each year: New York City, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco. Chicago’s Navy Per is the next stop, with more than 250 businesses showing their wares over three days. We’ve attended several times in Washington.

Here are the five reasons it’s worth going.

 1. Green Festival Exhibit Floor DCSustainable Stuff. I’m always amazed at the range of exhibitors and presentations as well as the quality of the food and products in the marketplace. On the exhibit floor, there’s everything from Ford showing its latest electric and hybrid cars to a small natural soap maker called The Fanciful Fox. You’ll see brands you know, such as Clif Bar, and many you don’t. We talked with some of the vendors who were still operating out of their homes. And there are many free samples!

2. Ideas. The event is also a great chance to learn new things about living sustainably. The upcoming Chicago event, for example, has almost 50 speakers – including authors, filmmakers, politicians, musicians, and scientists. Ralph Nader spoke at the Washington event. There were 83 speakers at the recent Los Angeles festival. Topics range from gardening to yoga to solar power.

GFCommunityAward3. Awards. Green Festival offers a Community Award at each location – a $5,000 grant awarded to a deserving local non-profit, chosen by the public on-site at the festival and online. Selected at the Washington D.C. event was The Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture, which is dedicated to creating a more equitable and sustainable local food system in the Washington, DC area.

4. Low Cost. Admission is reasonable and family friendly at only ten bucks per person (16 and under free, discounts to seniors and students). Volunteers enjoy free admission.

Kids Activities NYC5. Children and Adult Friendly. There’s a play area, puppet shows, dancing, plus plenty of products geared to children. And with kids (and adults like me) it’s always great to have a ready source of inexpensive and tasty food (some spicy!) nearby. Plus fashion shows, musical performances, and more for the grownups.

Green Festival is a fun way to learn more about sustainable living, through food, music, art, shopping, and discussions.

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4 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

There are several easy, but not obvious, ways people can reduce their carbon footprint.

carbon footprintEating locally grown food is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Buying local not only reduces the use of fossil fuels, it also helps the local economy and is typically healthier than eating food from distant lands. Local food is typically fresher, tastier, and uses fewer or no chemicals.

Unplugging electronics when not in use reduces the use of electricity in the home and workplace. Even when not in use, electronics that are plugged in use a small trickle of electricity, commonly called phantom load and standby power. Have you ever noticed those little green or red lights, or the always-on clock display? Over time, this waste adds up. Lawrence Berkeley National Labs estimates that as much as 10% of residential electricity use is from standby power, which is responsible for about 1% of global CO2 emissions.  One way to make the turn-offs easier is to use power strips and end the phantom use with one switch for multiple appliances or electronics.

A third way to reduce one’s carbon footprint is to reduce or avoid printing at the office and at home. Printing uses electricity as well as chemicals and paper. Much of the electricity used by printers, especially laser printers, is from standby mode. Instead of printing so much, review drafts on the computer screen and share documents online using a cloud-based service such as Google Drive, DropBox, or SharePoint. Also, Energy Star printers have lower standby electricity use.

Lastly, you can simply buy less stuff. Buying less by purchasing only what you need means you are simply not participating in the culture of overconsumption common is many western societies and directly linked to our individual carbon footprint.

Using these few easy steps, you can make meaningful progress toward reducing your carbon footprint.

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Green Festival DC – Sustainability Show Off

Washington, D.C. 2013 Event Guide
See sustainability in action at the Green Festival DC.

We’re excited to be attending the upcoming Green Festival DC, at the DC Convention Center this coming weekend. It’s the ninth iteration of the festival which we’ve attended the last few years. What is the Green Festival? It’s a place to see and learn about sustainability from economic, cultural, and environmental perspectives. Like we often say here, there are many aspects to living with a sustainability mindset rather than one of blind consumption.

There’s yummy organic food and interesting speakers including iconic Ralph Nader. And a Green Kids Zone as well as an eco-fashion show. So the festival has something for almost everyone, with a focus on sustainability. There’s also lots of food samples, free Ford electric-car rides, and hundreds of vendors. We know from experience that the festival is fun and informative!

This year, there is an expanded emphasis on food, and who doesn’t like food? Food highlights include:

  • Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food and Water Watch and author of the best-selling book Foodopoly, who will speak about food policy
  • DC-based FRESHFARM Markets (FRESHFARM Markets FoodPrints Program) who will present special sessions on “Eating Healthy On A Budget”
  • An Organic Food Court and a Sustainable Beer & Wine Garden
  • Workshops on raising backyard chickens, composting, growing herbs and other sustainability topics.

According to its organizers, Green America and Global Exchange, tickets are $10 for a one day pass and $20 for a full weekend pass when purchased online at www.greenfestivals.org, or $15 and $25 at the door. (All tickets provide access to exhibit floor, all workshops/yoga classes, speakers and films.) And there is FREE admission for anyone who rides a bike to the event and parks with the Clif Bar bike valet, youth under eighteen, union members, volunteers and Green America and Global Exchange members.

Location: Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Place N.W. Hall A, in Washington, DC. Hour are Saturday, September 21st 10am – 6pm and Sunday, September 22nd 11am – 5pm.

The Mindful Consumer will be there, tweeting from @mindfulconsumer. Let us know if you’re going and we’ll try to meet you. Of course watch Twitter and this blog for our perspectives and announcements from the festival.

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Green Living is for EVERY Body

I’ve been a vegetarian for 12 years. I recycle, garden, worked at a farm, and am an advocate for greener living; I’m also fat. There is a perception that the ecofriendly community looks a certain way, lives a certain life, votes a certain way, and fits into a neat category of people… except they don’t. Ecofriendly people are old and young, democrat or republican, all races, all socioeconomic levels, and all sizes. Some people are surprised when they meet me that I’d rather chomp on turnip than cheese hamburger, or that I am a strong worker who can be in the farm dirt all day long. I am an advocate for Health at Every Size (HAES) which supports actions to make bodies healthier rather than just focus on weight loss. Here’s a link for more information http://www.haescommunity.org/

 

We cannot judge how people live, or what choices they make just by looking at them, or assuming that if they fall into one category, they are automatically excluded from another. Oftentimes my body makes me an outsider to many traditionally ecofriendly avenues. When we go to Greenfest (or other conscious style shopping places) I know that there will probably be no clothing that fits me. Oftentimes various organizations that promote vegetarianism or veganism use weight as a way to persuade people into a vegetarian lifestyle; in fact many times a fat body is shamed to promote vegetarianism including this advertisement by PCRS which uses both sexism, ageism and body shaming to promote veganism: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIzngoAUoNM&list=PL-s1fMMoG8xVt7vMKGzskiAiRBtQ-GSqp&index=1 In order for a greener movement to be possible, we cannot continue to exclude people based on things like looks. ALL people matter and ALL actions are important.

The truth is that any step a person makes, whether a person does meatless Mondays occasionally, uses reusable bags at the grocery store, carpools, recycles, buys used, or ANY activity to make less footprint is imperative to creating a sustainable community: we are all neighbors on Earth. There is no way to know a person’s choices just by looking at them. Instead of assuming a person lives a certain way based on how they look, or who they vote for, understand that people who make earth friendly choices may not just be your hippie aunt with dreadlocks drinking kombucha but maybe your republican boss, the bodybuilder at your gym, your shy neighbor, or your heavy writer at TheMindfulConsumer.com.

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Drying Clothes on a Clothesline

 

Hanging Clothes on the Line

My towels hanging on the line
My towels hanging on the line

About two months ago I decided to spring for a clothesline.I wondered why we continued to use the old dryer in our rental when it has been so hot in the summer heat outside it felt like stepping into a dryer. Surprisingly, at one of those big home improvement stores I was able to find an inexpensive umbrella-style clothesline that was easy to install along with extra clothes pins. My mother used to hang clothes out on the line when I was growing up, so a few tips somehow stayed with me all these years. I will share with you a few reasons why you should try it, and a few tips on successful line drying.

Why Hang Clothes on the Line?

1. Energy savings. The sun is free and the dryer is a hog. I’ve found that in the 1 ½- 2 hours it took our dryer to dry a big load of towels, a warm sunny day dried them in the same amount of time.

2. Easy. Is it really easy to hang things on the line? It is. Truly. I find it relaxing and it only takes a few minutes to hang an entire load. A few free minutes of outdoor time can be relaxing. The way they look as they blow on the line is beautiful. I like to sneak between the damp clothes for a moment and pretend I am in a fort where no energy bill can get me.

3. Revolutionary. Instead of buying the newest, energy star product (hey, I love energy star appliances) this technique is ancient, free, and makes a statement that you don’t need to rely on energy to do everything.

4. Smell. Clothes on the line smell amazing. The way they look as they blow in the wind, and the fresh, clean, beautiful feeling is unmatchable. I dried my bed sheets and quilt on the line today and can’t wait to get in to my fresh, nice bed.

 

Tips on Line Hanging Success

1. Pin the clothes, towels, etc. with a tiny about of overhang on the line so you don’t get clothespins marks.

2. Most items of clothing hang better “upside down”, like pants, (hang them by the ankles instead of the waistband) or shirts (so you don’t get weird little marks on your shoulders from where the clothespins were). If you decide to hang your undergarments on the line, you can hang them on the inside so the neighbors don’t see.

3. Check the weather forecast. Enough said.

4. Hang things with space between them for air, and hang all things without an overlap so they dry faster.

5.Some things get kinda “crunchy” on the line, like towels. I feel like they give me extra exfoliation after my shower, and are super absorbent. If you don’t want the extra texture, some vinegar in the rise cycle is said to help alleviate the crunch and won’t smell after the clothes are dry. I have found that if you watch them, and take them down as soon as they dry, the likelihood of crunch is lower. Also, on a breezy day there is less likely to be roughness.

6. Some of the best and easiest things to hang on the line are towels and sheets. Even reducing a few loads of laundry a month is still so significant.

7. Check your homeowner’s association about whether or not they allow clotheslines. Ours (I kid you not) allow us to hang on a clothesline every day but Sunday (no, this isn’t the town from Footloose or a strange Puritan recreation village; that’s just what it says.) If you don’t have a yard, there are lots of indoor ways to hang clothes, too. From indoor clotheslines to foldaway racks. The benefit of hanging clothes indoors in the winter is that is also boosts the humidity in the house when it can get so dry.

 

I have really enjoyed the Zen-like activity of hanging clothes on the line. I also enjoy finding an activity that can cut down on utility costs, connect me to the past, and also become a statement of how I choose to use my energy. Instead of shoveling my wash into the dryer, I spend a few minutes outside, more observant of my surroundings. It forces me to pay attention to the wind, the air, the weather, and it rewards me with fresh smelling laundry that was dried for free.

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What’s Growing? Urban Container Gardening

photo (11)
My container garden bursting with delicious vegetables- only a 5×13 foot space 
photo (13)
A deer cruising my backyard, wondering where the deer salad bar (aka my garden) is.

It is June, and we have been enjoying all our fresh vegetables from our local CSA  and lots growing in our garden. I am doing a container garden this year, as our backyard is a major deer thoroughfare, and I have yet to build the maximum security garden cages needed to protect my precious harvest from becoming a deer salad bar. Right now I am growing tomatoes, carrots, celery, plum, peas, basil, lavender, oregano, mint, Meyer lemon, lettuce, lemongrass, raspberry, strawberry; all in urban garden style containers on my patio in a 5 foot x 13 foot patio space. There is even a little fountain in there that adds pretty sounds and a nice visual effect. I am also growing 30 corn plants out in the “deer zone” and am hoping the netting will keep them away until I can put something more permanent. I was thinking of doing a “three sisters” garden out there where you plant corn, let it grow about a foot, plant beans and let them use the corn as a trellis, and plant squash. The beans give the corn nitrogen (corn is a heavy nitrogen feeder) and the squash leaves help retain moisture. It is an indigenous American gardening technique. Sounds like I need to get to the seed store!

Corn growing in preparation for my "three sisters" garden bed
Corn growing in preparation for my “three sisters” garden bed

So besides the corn, my entire garden is in containers- I use a “big bag bed” on a shipping crate, and various pots and containers to grow everything. I use my hanging plants above other plants, so as they drain, the plants below can get the water. For the gardener who may neglect their gardens, mine on the patio means I walk by it every time I go in the house, so I can keep an eye on it and remember to water, check for pests, and harvest anything that looks ready before the wildlife gets to it. Container gardens are also easier to weed, and it means less time bending over, and more control over the soil.  Although I am far from an expert gardener, through trial and error, a sense of whimsy, I’ve been able to grow some of my own food. My biggest advice for gardeners just starting out is to plant more than you think you’ll need (like the old timey farmer adage: one for the blackbird, one for the crow, one to wash away, and one to grow). The other tip is to have fun, enjoy yourself, and even one small pot with one tomato plant still has the spirit of a thousand gardens.

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Nine Podcasts Worth Listening To: How To Be Green

95506096About a year ago, we discussed podcasts about living green. Please don’t waste your time searching online for green podcasts! A Google search today for “green living podcasts” has the two highest ranked results as a TLC article which must be old because many of its links are expired, and a discontinued podcast. The same search on iTunes provides equally anemic results. The only way to find a decent podcast for living sustainably is to try them. I’ve listened to all of these podcasts and give you a short list; if you know of others then let me know. The podcast universe is fluid, and many of the podcasts mentioned in our last post about this are gone, and some survive. I still spend lots of time alone on the car, so I sought out others.

Podcasts Listed in November 2011 Post

  • More Hip Than Hippie – inactive
    • Founders moved on to other ventures. According to this Facebook post, “We ended the show in February after Val closed Greenfeet as it was the major sponsor of the show.”
  • Here on Earth – cancelled
    • After nearly 30 years on Wisconsin Public Radio, Jean Feraca, host of Here on Earth, has retired. But you can listen to the final episode here.
  • Living Green Podcast – inactive

Simple Criteria for Selection

  1. Content – who cares? If it’s overly technical or academic, I’m not always listening. If the topic is too esoteric, it might also lose me.
  2. Quality – does it sound like a bad phone call? I can’t hear what you have to say if it is painful to listen.
  3. Opinionated – does it have a voice? If it’s just news, I’m yawning; I read that elsewhere. But if it’s a rant or in-depth discussion about the news, I’m listening.

Here are the green living podcasts I’m listening to these days, with specifics about each, including links to their Web pages and iTunes pages as well as Facebook and Twitter. The list of nine, with my ranking 9-1:

9. GREEN GRID RADIO

Personality: Adam Pearson

What it Is

Recently started, in Oct 2012, Stanford University is the backdrop for Green Grid Radio that focuses on renewable energy. The students are intelligent and find some great guests to interview, asking some excellent questions.

The Stats

  • iTunes  – no ratings/reviews
  • 45 Twitter followers @greengridradio

In Their Own Words

The goal of Green Grid Radio is to provide a local and regional perspective on the Californian and American transition to renewable electricity sources. We seek to inform the broad public, as well as to showcase the work of our academic, industry, and student speakers. The program is a weekly interview, panel, and news show that will explore different components of sustainable electricity networks, regenerative systems, and technological efficiency. Some of our show topics will fall under the umbrellas of utility-scale wind, solar, and geothermal facilities, energy efficient buildings, and transportation. Guests on the show will run the gamut from Stanford professors to industrial professionals to environmental conservationists. Green Grid Radio airs every Thursday from 6-7 pm PST, on KZSU Stanford 90.1FM

Recent Episodes

  • Taking on Climate Change Through Education and Grassroots Action
  • Wildlife Challenges and Opportunities with Wind Energy (with Justin Allegro of the National Wildlife Federation)
  • Climate Change in the US after Superstorm Sandy (with Dr. Philip Duffy of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories)

8. HOW TO BE GREEN WITHOUT BEING A JACKASS

Personality: Jason Aubrey

What it Is

Jason considers himself an “entrepreneurial sustainable conservative” and hosts an entertaining podcast. However, many in the green movement might be taken aback by Jason’s frank discussions and open criticisms of the status quo in the world of living green. He attacks organic and vegans, for example. He asserts, and I agree, that the economic elements of sustainability are important – his slant on green is applying business sense. Jason thinks that everybody in green is promoting an agenda. This podcast is a bit different from the others, in that it’s positioning may not align with many in the green movement. Yet there are valuable perspectives and tips, backed up by extensive show notes on his Web site.

The Stats

  • 15 episodes since August 2012
  • 9 ratings on iTunes, 7 are 5 stars
  • 223 Twitter followers @jasonaubrey

In Their Own Words

Jason formed Nourish the Planet Enterprises to bring business development into the greenspace and deliver quality content to the growing segment of “pro-sumers”.   He has spent his career in business development and startups. A consultant, former commercial lending officer, marketing director, sales manager, and special projects coordinator, he brings a unique perspective to a changing business landscape and how companies communicate their message.

Recent Episodes

  • Green Gifts
  • Alternatives to Big Food
  • Toxins

7. SENSE AND SUSTAINABILITY

Personality: Jisung Park

What it Is

Sense and Sustainability looks at the research around sustainability from a broad perspective, with in-depth discussions and expert opinions.

The Stats

In Their Own Words

Sense and Sustainability is a podcast, a blog, and an online community devoted to translating the research frontier on sustainable development to the general public. We seek to provide a forum for rigorous yet accessible, incisive yet balanced conversations about a broad range of issues pertaining to global sustainable development – to students, researchers, professionals and practitioners in the field. We also pitch a broad tent when it comes to defining what “sustainability” means; in other words, we’re not just another environmental blog. We believe that truly sustainable development requires practical solutions to a wide range of interconnected problems that are by no means limited to the environmental sphere. Sense and Sustainability is a collaborative effort with Consilience: The Journal of Sustainable Development at Columbia University.

Recent Episodes

  • Faith-Based Environmentalism
  • Why Should Businesses Care about Sustainability?
  • Aldo Leopold and “Sustainability Through a Historical Lens

6. THE ORGANIC VIEW

Personality: June Stoyer

What it Is

The Organic View podcast has an extensive history and following, with a focus on organic living, as the title suggests. There are interesting topics and a diversity of guests. My only complaint is the sound quality; June sometimes sounds as if she’s on a bad phone connection. The rich Web site provides additional show details, recipes, and articles in categories: animals, bees, environment, and health.

The Stats

In Their Own Words

“The Organic View Radio Show” is a unique, live, interactive, internet talk-radio show that features key leaders, innovators and educators who work within industries that involve organics, environment, politics, living green and sustainability. Host, June Stoyer, explores the background and mission of each guest.  June Stoyer, is a native New Yorker, born on Long Island and raised on a private organic farm in the Catskill Mountains. Her father’s passion for organic farming provided the perfect foundation for which she now thrives as an educator and an activist. After working 12 years in Corporate America with technologies that focused on supermarket retail, consumer packaged goods and consumer behavior marketing, she decided to take the plunge as an entrepreneur. June owned and operated an organic specialty foods retail business as well as a culinary instructional business, teaching over 900 culinary, nutritional and horticultural programs for all ages.

Recent Episodes

  • Jackie Wilkinson Discusses How She Won Gold
  • Creating Biodiveristy by Bringing Nature Home
  • The Role of Pesticides in Honey Bees

5. PRI: LIVING ON EARTH

What it Is

If you like public radio, you’ll like Living on Earth. It’s coverage is broad and deep, and goes beyond just the news. The podcast delves into the science of sustainability and ecology, more than most of the others. Also, the Web site PRI’s Environmental News Magazine has show archives and additional content.

The Stats

  • 57 ratings on iTunes (52 5-star)
  • 4196 likes on Facebook page
  • 590 Twitter followers @livingonearth

In Their Own Words

Living on Earth with Steve Curwood is the weekly environmental news and information program distributed by Public Radio International. Every week approximately 300 Public Radio stations broadcast Living on Earth’s news, features, interviews and commentary on a broad range of ecological issues.

Recent Episodes

  • Chemicals That Promote Obesity Down the Generations
  • A Troubling Climate Assessment
  • Working Woodlands for Carbon and Cash

 4. KEXP MIND OVER MATTERS

What it Is

KEXP is a service of the University of Washington, who holds the station’s FCC license.  The podcast had a northwest U.S. perspective with a focus on interviews to shed light on pressing environmental issues. If you’re wanting depth and expertise, and don’t mind (or appreciate) the northwest perspective, this podcast is for you.

Stats

In Their Own Words

The Sustainability Segment presents one-on-one interviews with inspiring leaders and grass roots activists on a variety of environmental, social, and economic issues affecting life and the future of our planet.

Recent Episodes

  • Guests Ivy Sager-Rosenthal, Campaign Director, and Erika Schreder, Science Director, Washington Toxics Coalition, speak with Diane Horn about toxic flame retardants and discuss the Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act.
  • Guest Dennis Canty, Pacific Northwest Director, American Farmland Trust, speaks with Diane Horn about the report “Planting the Seeds: Moving to More Local Food in Western Washington.”
  • Guest April Linton of the Fair Trade Association speaks with Diane Horn about her book “Fair Trade from the Ground Up: New Markets for Social Justice.”

3. THE HARVEST EATING PODCAST

Personality: Keith Snow

What it Is

Chef Keith Snow talks about food, with a slant towards homesteading. He discusses using natural ingredients to make simple recipes. He promotes using food grown locally. There is a cookbook and a PBS TV show Harvest Eating with Chef Snow. Keith’s podcast style is friendly and informative, tying in his personal experiences with the local food messages. The podcast has a Web page that has archive and more information.

The Stats

In Their Own Words

Welcome to The Harvest Eating weekly audio podcast. We discuss all things Harvest Eating and provide lots of encouragement for people getting into seasonal cooking with local foods. We’ll discuss what I am doing on the farm, new recipes and videos that are yet to be posted on the website and also career updates. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast in i-Tunes and leave a review. 

Recent Episodes

  • Black Lentil Soup
  • Power of Kale
  • Making Beef and Chicken Stock

2. Sustainable World Radio

Personality: Jill Cloutier What it Is The focus here is permaculture, and the podcast discusses topics involving homesteading, gardening, and other earth-connecting practices. Jill is enthusiastic and easy to listen to, while her guests are an interesting and diverse lot. The most recent episode was in November, but the blog is active so I suspect a new episode soon.

The Stats

In Their Own Words

Jill Cloutier is an environmental educator, freelance writer, and videographer. Jill has been producing Sustainable World Radio since 2004. After surviving her early 20’s,  as a militant vegan, (“How could you eat that!?), and a “Voice of Doom”, (“Lester Brown says that we have 8 years left.”), Jill realized that it was much more fun to educate through laughter and positive energy than through guilt, fear, and gloom. What is Permaculture? Larry Santoyo (LS)- Coined in the early 1970s by Australian ecologists Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, Permaculture is a contraction of the words “permanent” and “culture.” Permaculture is a highly developed Art, Science, and a Philosophy- all in one.  Permaculture Design is a Community Planning and Land Use Planning system that mimics nature. It offers a natural, practical and inherently economical way to model the way we build and operate our homes and communities.

Recent Episodes

  • All Good Things Organic Seeds- A Conversation With Organic Farmer Justin Huhn
  • The REAL Green Revolution In Africa: Permaculture in Zimbabwe With Julious Piti
  • Urban Homesteading- Heirloom Skills and Permaculture

1. Mrs. Green’s World

Personality: Gina Murphy-Darling

What it Is

Gina Murphy-Darling started talking green in 2008, motivated by a speaker at a conference. This growing podcast started (and remains) on the radio as a weekly local 30-minute show. Mrs. Green’s World has expanded, now with a newsletter, blog, videos, and social media presence. The podcast has about 1,400 downloads each month. While there is a local southern Arizona-based slant to some of the discussions, the messages are applicable all over.

The Stats

In Their Own Words

Welcome to Mrs. Green’s World where we don’t tell you what to think, we just want you to. Join us each week to learn everything from simple tips to live green to living life in balance. You will hear cutting edge leaders from around the world share exciting information about energy, technology, automobiles, healthy living, fashion and so much more. Listen to Mrs. Green’s World live every Saturday at noon.”

Recent Episodes

  • A Planetary-wide Blueprint for the Future – Daniel Rirdan, author of The Blueprint, Averting Global Collapse
  • What Can You Learn from an Octopus? – Rafe Sagarin, PhD, Institute of Environment, University of Arizona
  • Southwest Airlines: Operating with the Green Filter –Laurel Moffat, Outreach Communication, Southwest Airlines

That’s all folks – happy listening!

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Moving Day

Moving can be green!

Ron and I have had to move every year for the last three years and I think I’ve become quite an expert at it. We are always trying to find more eco-friendly ways to move, so here are a few ways we saved money, and practiced sustainable ideas at the same time.

1. Packing supplies. Besides using our old newspapers, we also used some of the things we move as padding! Things like towels, blankets, and other things we need to move helped as padding for the packages- its free and it saves space. If you use a moving service, watch out for the ones that wrap everything in that non-reusable plastic wrap. Not only is it a hidden extra cost, it is not needed and gets thrown out immediately after you unpack.

2. Boxes. There are some really cool companies that rent plastic boxes, deliver them to your home, and pick them up at the new place. I would have loved to try one of these services, but I started packing a month before the move, so this wasn’t a viable option for me. There are lots of places to get free boxes, from Craigslist and Freecycle, to recycling bins behind shopping centers, to grocery and liquor stores. Some of my favorite size boxes are wine boxes from the liquor store, and I usually get quite a few good, free, used boxes from there. It may look to my neighbors that I am quite the party animal, as I carry wine box after wine box in the house, but I’m just being green! When you are done with your boxes, recycle them, or even better- pass them on to someone else who is moving.

3. Paring down. You will save your back, your space, and your sanity by using moving time as a way to get rid of stuff you don’t need or want. I consider trash as the last option for something I don’t want, but first I see if I can sell it, donate it, give it away, or recycle it. Someone is usually looking for exactly what I don’t want any more, and instead of stuff going in to the landfill, we can actually make a transfer of goods fairly easily.

4. Buying furniture. While looking for a new couch, a furniture salesman explained to us that the leather used in a couch was “green” because it was just the hyde from the cows that are used for meat. While Ron and I don’t eat meat, and thought that was a strange definition of green, there are ways to get more eco friendly furniture. Many companies are now specializing in more eco friendly materials, but my favorite eco-friendly furniture by far is used! I found two beautiful 1920’s wooden chairs at the thrift store (2 for $30) that, when looking up the maker’s mark, are beautiful American made furniture that sells for a pretty penny in the antique market- not even Ikea can beat those prices! You don’t need to go to an expensive antique store to get good furniture, often times I find it at second-hand shops. Check consignment shops, thrift shops, antique shops. By buying used you can save money, and there is zero carbon footprint for already produced items, and oftentimes furniture was made better years ago.

So beautiful, so green, so cheap!

While moving can be a pain, you can make it green by making some small changes in your actions. Move on!

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We Love Composting

 

There are many websites explaining the basics of composting, but we wanted to add our personal experience with it. While I am more of the gardener, and Ron is more of the maintenance/yard work guy, and we are both the chefs in the kitchen so composting is something that we can both do and benefit from together.

Composting is a great way to reduce the waste that goes in landfills, add beautiful dirt or mulch for your garden, and once you get it set up the price is minimal. Instead of buying those $10 bags of dirt from your local nursery, you are making nutrient rich stuff yourself. When we moved from an apartment to a townhome we were really able to take advantage of composting for two reasons: we actually had yard waste and grass clippings to add, and the space available to really compost the way we wanted. Our county gave free composting bins, it was an adjustable plastic wall that you curved in to a tubular container and added your compost. When we started composting I noticed that a lot of my kitchen waste was now able to go in to the compost bin:

Our first composter- simple design, and held a lot of compost. Inside you can see leaves, grass, food scraps, papershreddings, etc.

 

Stuff from the house:

veggie/fruit peels, cores, rotten bits

paper shreddings

egg shells

hair

paper towels

coffee grounds

nut shells

dead flower arrangements

really every organic thing in the kitchen besides that on the “no” list.

Things you do not add from this category are meat, fat, oil, or dairy.

 

We were also adding stuff from the yard: grass clippings, leaves, animal bedding, tree clippings, hay, farm animal manure (horse, cow, chicken).

The things you do not add from this category are: dog/cat/people waste, weeds that have gone to seed, chemicals, metal, plastic.

 

 

We used this cylinder composter through fall, winter, and spring. We quickly realized we needed something to collect the kitchen scraps, and bought a cute little pail with a lid that we throw scraps in to carry to the compost pile. It fills up every few days, depending on what I am doing in the kitchen.

This container sits on our counter and collects the scraps to be carried outside to the composter. The lid has a filter, so it does not smell or attract fruit flies. This little tool is vital for becoming accustomed to composting.

So now we are coming around to spring and are realizing a few things.

 

One. We make a lot of compost a week and with our recycling and composting, our trash creation is shrinking exponentially.

Two. At some point, you need to stop adding to the pile so that way everything can break down. We had one compost bin, and we added to it every week.

Three. With an open top, all sorts of furry animals may become interested in the compost. We had a squirrel invasion. We bought cayenne pepper in bulk, and it seemed to deter the little guys from it.

 

 

After these three lessons were learned, we decided to invest in a dual tumbler. The county got us hooked on composting, and now we needed to upgrade from the entry level to the luxury edition composter.


This dual tumbler would fix all three of our realizations: lots of room for compost, two bins- so while one is finishing, we can add to the other, and three, no little squirrels could get in it. I will spare you the agonizing details of building a seemingly easy apparatus, but 6 hours later, we had something I was so proud of, I hardly wanted to fill it with rotten stuff. The greatest benefit to date, is both getting that beautiful black gold to put in my garden, and the major reduction of trash for the trash man each week. 

We love composting because it reduces landfills, adds to the garden, and it is just plain neat to watch your trash turn in to treasure. Happy composting!

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Benefits of Buying Local: Our Weekend Away

Ron and I went on a weekend away in Harrisonburg, Virginia after original plans went askew. Although we did not plan it this way, we sure did a lot of local buying on our mini weekend getaway. We stayed at a privately owned cabin (The Dry River Cabin http://www.vrbo.com/391297 ) and instead of talking with a woman behind the counter of a corporately owned hotel, we were greeted by the owner of the cabin, who had already gotten the fire in the fireplace started, and wanted to make sure we had a nice weekend. It was also so much cheaper than some hotel somewhere… or rather, the hotel would could have gotten for the price of the cabin would not be the type of hotel we’d WANT to relax in. Our cabin was comfy, one of a kind, and just the beginning of supporting local spending.

Our cabin had a full kitchen, and so we headed off to the farmer’s market to get a few things (http://harrisonburgfarmersmarket.com/ ). We were both surprised that in January, in Virginia, the farmer’s market was bustling with good stuff. Locally made raw-milk cheeses (my favorite), vegan lentil soup, and all those good earthy vegetables like radish, carrots, potatoes, and onions abound. I love Farmers Markets because you can ask questions (“What’s a kohlrabi? How do you cook it?”) straight to the farmers and producers. These farmers were bundled up on this frosty day, but there was loads of different things to buy, and everyone seemed to be in a great mood. Sometimes living in the Washington D.C. Area can get a person a little entitled, believing their particular area is where progress of the nation is, but I’ve got to say- their farmer’s market in January sure beat anything local in my area! After picking up the cheese, and soup, we also took home some sprouted grain bread, a sinful pecan bar, free range eggs, blackberry jam, potatoes, carrots, and onions. By buying these things locally, we were able to give the money straight to the producer of the goods, and getting the food local means fresher, healthier, and better food. Plus, it’s just plain old more fun than the grocery store. The local restaurant co-op that we only had the pleasure of one meal at had many items on the menu from local farms, plus a great vegetarian menu that made us both wish we could have had more meals there (http://littlegrillcollective.com/ ). A restaurant co-op means those who work in the restaurant own it, and the giant tip jar on the counter means the money is shared with everyone.

Later we stumbled upon a historical mill (http://silverlakemill.com/ )which had a gift shop with local artisan work. I brought home a rug made on a hand-loom from an 86 year old local woman who has been weaving since she was a child. The kicker is that it really wasn’t too much more expensive than its over-seas mass produced counterpart. I have to admit that I am an antique junkie and hardly a shop passed without at least a browse while we were there. The items I have in my house that always get the most comments are the antiques that I’ve found either at antique, or thrift shops. Antiques are great because they hold nostalgia, can be inexpensive depending on your fancy, create no carbon footprint as they are already produced, and its like a treasure hunt finding them. I walked in to The Pottery Barn the other day and could not believe the items that were meant to look like antiques that were more expensive than the actual antique, produced in China, and anyone could pick one up! Antique shops are independently owned, and your money goes straight to the seller. We stopped by a local winery (the third oldest in the state) (www.shentel.net/shenvine/) and it ended a perfect weekend of mindful spending.

A vacation (even a weekend away) is an opportunity to vote with your wallet. Instead of chain restaurants and grocery stores, we chose the farmers market, and individually owned restaurants and hotels. Instead of major retailers, we bought our souvenirs from local artists and antique shops. Shopping local makes sense for the economy, and it makes sense for the purchaser: many options were cheaper than their counterpart, and the money supported what we believed in. A few hundred dollars spent in corporations means little, but a few hundred dollars in to the local economy is truly tangible to the people who live there. Remember that every dollar spent is vote towards what we as consumers agree with.

 

*none of these places payed us to write about them in this article, nor is this really meant to be a commercial to any place in particular, I just included them because I enjoyed them. Local, wonderful shops with these values are everywhere, you just need to seek them out.

 

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