Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Love that landscaping!

The spring weather in Indiana is just warm enough where it teases us for just a few days, only to shock us back into 30 and 40-degree weather.

But the sunny weekend we just had brought many of our new neighbors out to finally put in their long put-off landscaping.

Personally, while I'm not a green thumb, I love the look of landscaping. Bushes, trees, perennials...and particularly, anything that can be just "left."

What I didn't realize is that landscaping not only looks great, but it can make a difference in your energy bills as well. I'd heard that the appropriately placed tree can reduce your summer cooling costs. But shrubs and even vines can pay off too.

According to the Department of Energy:

Planting shrubs, bushes, and vines next to your house creates dead air spaces that insulate your home in both winter and summer. Plant so there will be at least 1 foot (30 centimeters) of space between full-grown plants and your home's wall.

During winter, dense, low-lying trees and shrubbery on the north and northeast sides of your home can help protect your home against wind chill.

Evergreen bushes and trees planted on the north side of your home can protect your home from the winter chill and block the snow from building against your house.

In addition to more distant windbreaks, planting shrubs, bushes, and vines next
to your house creates dead air spaces that insulate your home in both winter and
summer. Plant so there will be at least 1 foot (30 centimeters) of space between
full-grown plants and your home's wall.

And for those concerned about initial costs, your payoff can come back in as little as eight years. For doing little more than making your yard look great!

Learn more at the U.S. Department of Energy's Guide to Energy-Efficient Landscape Design.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

3 gallons of gas

I realize this is a diversion from the typical environmental blog posting. But it's an issue that's dear to my heart.

As we all know, gas prices are hitting families hard. It wasn’t long ago that we complained about $2 a gallon. Now, it approaches $4.

While skyrocketing gasoline prices impact our own budgets, it harms those in most need of help more.

The furniture/household item delivery program at Fresh Start of Indiana, an organization devoted to getting domestic violence victims back on their feet, is facing cutbacks due to rising gas prices. The Indianapolis-based organization has had to reduce the number of furniture deliveries to their clients due to the increase of gas prices. Every increase at the pump hampers the group’s ability to help domestic violence victims get a “fresh start” in life with the simple necessities of a home.

I realize we are in challenging times, but I urge you to consider donating the cost of three gallons of gas, or more if you are able, to Fresh Start of Indiana's furniture/household item delivery program . You can do this by supporting the “3 gallons of gas” campaign.

Visit to how to help. Together, we can make a difference for families in need in central Indiana.

Yes, you can even recycle tulips

My husband and I visited the Garfield Park Conservatory last weekend. In checking out the Web site first to see what was out, I was surprised to learn that the parks department offers what I consider to be "tulip recycling," otherwise known as Keep What You Pull Day.

After the tulips have finished blooming, volunteers come in one morning to remove the bulbs and make way for the summer annuals. Tulips are first come, first serve. You only need to bring your garden supplies.

We received this e-mail yesterday from the gardens:
There is still no date for the upcoming Keep What You Pull Day. The
cooling trend this week in the weather will most likely extend the bloom time in
the gardens well into the first week of May.

Learn more about Keep What You Pull Day, and sign up for date notification here.

It's great that they offer "tulip recycling" but would be even better if they considered native perennials for the future. When visiting, there were rows and rows of untouched dirt - so much that I asked a staffer whether they were redoing the gardens this year. No, these are annuals. Perhaps in the future the parks department would consider a more longer-term approach to the gardens.

Tuesday morning updates

A couple of updates on this blustery Tuesday morning:
  • Political paper count: So far, I've gotten two direct mail pieces from each campaign/campaign symapthizers. Frankly, I'm surprised that it's so low, but we do have another week until the Indiana primaries.
  • Buy nothing challenge: Not so good. There's buying stuff to buy stuff, and there's buying stuff to replace stuff. And, honestly, as a new mom, I still have to fit into clothes for work (and things have shifted).
  • CSAs: I'm counting the days until our CSA kicks off. I also learned that Mallow Run Winery on the south side of Indianapolis (Center Grove area) is starting a CSA this year. It appears to have more than produce and will include occasional meats, eggs, baked goods and more.

The greening of giveaways

As a marketing professional, sometimes my clients are more interested in the immediately tangible than the long-term payoffs.

I'm talking giveaways.

It's amazing the amount of crap I've had to purchase over the last six years. Pens with pom-poms on top. More water bottles and lunch bags than I can count. Pill boxes of every shape and size, all branded - and likely thrown away at some point.

I've tried to shy my clients away from the "must have" giveaway item, particularly when size, storage or budget are issues. I truly don't believe you can measure ROI on a 10-cent pen, for instance. Instead, I encourage spending that money on a gift basket for a door prize or something truly useful for a few people. It's easier, provides more benefit and less junk, and frankly gives you qualified leads.

Why am I discussing giveaways and marketing on a green blog? Because giveaways are going green.

Yesterday, in my inbox I was for the first time asked what kind of plastic would be used in a water bottle. I'm heartened that people are taking their impact on the environment into consideration when making choices about what to give to customers.

I'll admit that none of the giveaway sites or catalogs I've investigated in the past have included this information. It will be interesting to see whether, in the future, organizations take this information into consideration in the marketing of these products.

Monday, April 28, 2008

More on the shrinkage at Sam's

We stopped by Sam's Club Friday, and yes, in Indiana, bags of rice are going quickly. Nearby, pasta wasn't being touched.

Quick thought: Wouldn't it be great if people didn't panic? By spending money on rice, we're forcing prices to go up more quickly, causing more panic about prices, resulting in more people buying quickly at higher prices...

And we're hurting the people who might rely on rice as a staple the most.

It's that whole supply-and-demand thing missed when sleeping in Economics.

Your challenges this week: Branch your menus out of your comfort zone of rice and pasta. Try a new grain. Or, at the least, refrain from stocking up on high-demand items at the grocery.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Me & My Tree campaign

Spring is here, and thoughts start turning toward planting in the garden. We're teased by garden catalogs and the latest ads in the paper.

But in my inbox this morning was an e-mail about an interesting concept that goes further than the local nursery discount. Me & My Tree is a new campaign from Keep Indianapolis Beautiful. It's more than just getting a coupon and encouraging people to plant a tree in their yard.

Me & My Tree offers a 20% off coupon for local retailers and then encourages you to, once the tree is planted, update their Web site with the location of your tree. Over time, you'll see the difference this campaign has made metro-wide on their map.

The goal is to have at least 1,000 trees added in the city at the campaign's end.

From a marketing perspective, I love it the idea of the interaction and showing that each of us, together, can make a difference. From an environmental perspective, it's a fun way to encourage others to beautify Indy.

Read frequently asked questiosn about Me & My Tree.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Political primary rubbish

Indiana finally matters. After years of "So what?" primaries in May, this year, our vote truly counts and can make a difference in the presidential candidates.

There's a cost to the primary season dragging out, and it's not just bad blood among Democrats. There's more traveling and canvassing across the states as candidates try to make their case. And there's definitely a lot of resources being spent for advertising, whether through traditional media or direct mail.

Less than 24 hours after the Pennsylvania primary, direct mail pieces against each candidate showed up in my mailbox at home. It'll be interesting to see just how many pieces are collected between now and May 6, and I'll post an update on the offenders here.

Perhaps as the campaigns progress, candidates can look into using renewal resources, such as recycled paper, in their campaign materials. Working in marketing, I know that recycled paper can be as cost-effective yet still be as quality as "regular" paper. If only the candidates can catch on.

In the meantime, I urge everyone to recycle these pieces once you've reviewed them.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sweet idea from Stonyfield Yogurt

I love yogurt, but the down side is it generates trash on a daily basis. Unfortunately, we can't recycle #5 containers here, and most brands come in #5 plastic containers.

I recently learned that Stonyfield Yogurt will take back its yogurt containers for recycling. You can send your clean cups to: Stonyfield Farm, 10 Burton Drive, Londonderry, NH 03053. From there, they are recycled into Recycline brand razors and toothbrushes (both of which can also be recycled later into plastic lumber).

Granted, it would take a lot of containers to make the shipping worthwhile, but consider that those containers can get a second or third life instead of filling up a landfill. Sweet idea.

Going green: Only in Barnes & Noble's coffers?

Sunday, I took part in a guilty pleasure: Wandering the aisles at Barnes & Noble. I was particularly interested in what's available regarding living a less environmentally-damaging lifestyle.

Was I surprised.

As Earth Day is today, the obligatory "Green" table was out. And the choices? About a dozen or so books. A mix of "how to be a lazy environmentalist," "renovating your house the green way" and "the earth is dying" books. Is there no middle ground?

I don't believe you can just buy your way to a better environment and treat your conscience as clean. Clutter is still clutter, and environmentally safer products in tough-to-recycle bottles still generate trash. Those are baby steps, but they don't totally eliminate the problems. I think, truthfully, you need to make wiser choices all around, even if they're slightly uncomfortable. Just like transitioning to healthier eating habits, true change takes time and commitment.

It'd be nice to find real resources on how to live a greener lifestyle. I'd love to redo my kitchen or flooring, install solar panels or do other expensive "green" projects, but it's just not going to happen. But I do believe there are many of us who want to do more for our environment, even if we can't afford big-ticket items. And I want to do more than buy a bottle of cleaner to make a difference in our environment. If there are other resources out there, I'd love to hear about them. Because it's the many, many small changes we take that are going to prevent the doomsday prognostications in some of the books on the green table.

Pulling together in tough times

Maybe I've read Casaubon's Book one too many times. Or maybe I've just been seeing too many headlines about shortages in Mexico or Zimbabwe.

But today on CNN Headline News I was shocked to see a story on food rationing at an American Costco. And I have to wonder: Is the U.S. approaching a food shortage, and what can we do about it?

It's no surprise that pain at the pump is impacting Americans. Prices overall are going up. Food banks all over Indianapolis - and, I suspect this country - are experiencing fewer donations and greater need.

What can we do?

From a humanitarian perspective, support your local food banks. Our neighbors need our help, and it doesn't take much to make a difference. Pick up an extra can or two of food when you're shopping next and deliver it to your local food drive. (My church makes it easy - just drop it in the shopping cart at the door.) Or bring by a meal to a neighbor who's experiencing tough times, whether it's a return home from the hospital or a loss of a job. If we all made minor adjustments to our habits, we could help so many people.

From a household perspective, support the local guys. As I found last weekend, often the cost for farmer's markets are similar to the stores (even with organic products), and the quality is better. Not to mention, you are supporting your local/regional economy, and you are reducing the amount of fuel associated with transportation costs.

Those of you with green thumbs can always plant a garden - no matter what the scale. Even a few pots with tomatoes can be planted from an apartment deck. And onions and garlic are among those simple plants that can be planted and can grow, no matter how brown your thumb actually is.

And, finally, watch your diet. Try to simplify where you can. Potatoes are more sustainable and require less resources than potato chips. Reduce the amount of animal proteins in your diet, as they require space for grazing as well as the grain resources to be fed. Create your own pasta dish instead of buying boxed Pasta-roni or another prepackaged item, which costs more and feeds less. By making simple, smart choices, you are reducing your environmental impact and your overall food costs.

Yes, we may be in for challenging times, but pulling together resources can go a long way towards making a difference.

Disposing of drugs

As a concerned mom, I have labeled all of our medication bottles with large, black expiration dates and toss as soon as they expire to prevent poisoning. Little did I realize I was still impacting those around us by improperly disposing of my medications.

According to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management:

leftover pharmaceutical products, whether in liquid or solid form, cause problems once they are disbursed into the environment. Our wastewater facilities are not designed to remove pharmaceutical waste.

As a result, all of these items should be disposed of with the same attention as hazardous waste materials. Some reminders to consider:

  • Never pour medications down the drain or toilet. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if they will accept unwanted or expired pharmaceuticals.
  • Never give or sell unwanted or expired medicines to family or friends.
  • Take unwanted medicines and electronic equipment to special collections in your community.
Learn how to properly dispose of your medications.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

$30 at the organic market gets you....

Traders Point Creamery's Farmers Market was my destination yesterday morning. Visiting the Green Market is a treat for my family, in part because of the drive and in part because we take full advantage of the trip, visiting the cows and chickens (a treat in a 2 year old's eyes). We also take part in our usual tradition of visiting the Dairy Bar, relaxing with a cup of mango ice cream (for the toddler) and the best chocolate milkshake you will ever have (for the grown-ups).

As an experiment, I brought $30 with me to see what I could find at the organic market for my guests this weekend. Given the rising prices for food overall and also for organics, I was curious to see how I'd come out.

I was very surprised to find that not everything organic or natural was more expensive thn non-organic items at the grocery store.

Here's what I purchased:
  • Organic eggs, $4 per dozen. Granted, I feel $2.50 per dozen that I pay in the stores is a bit much, but that extra $1.50 not to have to go stand in line in Kroger on a weekend was worth it.
  • Fruit salsa, $5, was my splurge. I am very guilty of buying impulse items, and this was this week's purchase. However, my 2 year old loved it, and it made a great compliment to a simple lunch of crackers, cheese, and smoked salmon. I'll have to locate a similar recipe.
  • Pork steaks. At $1.99 a pound, this was very comparable - and possibly cheaper! - than prices at the groceries. And having bought from this Mennonite farmer in the past, I know that the pork steaks are leaner and tastier than most pork chops I find in the store. We finally found dinner for six!
  • Breakfast sausage, $3.50 a pound. Again, it's comparable in price to the stores, and would make a good accompaniment to my blueberry baked french toast for brunch.

After spending only $17 at the meat stand, I still had $4 left, more than enough to cover my milkshake at the Dairy Bar.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a variety of items that I didn't buy, simply because of space in the fridge or because I already had enough on hand. Already at the market: salad mixes, pastas, breads, handcrafted soaps, coffee and specialty items. Even though the growing season in Indianapolis doesn't officially start for another month, I can't wait to see what the summer holds, and I am glad to know the summer's bounty will be affordable, even if it's organic.

Friday, April 18, 2008

What price organic?

Today's New York Times writes about the growing sticker shock for organic food.
In some parts of the country, a loaf of organic bread can cost $4.50, a pound of
pasta has hit $3, and organic milk is closing in on $7 a gallon.

The writers attribute much of this to the reasons plaguing high food prices as a whole, but added to this concern is that there's less incentive financially for a farmer to switch to or stay organic.

So the question is, how much are you wiling to pay for organic produce, meats or milk? Are you willing to pay the piper for pasta made from organic wheat? Or organic chicken, who fed on organic grains?

It's a tough call. Even if grocery chains, Target and Wal-mart are entering the organic food forray, the reality is that all food prices are on the rise, and it may be cheaper and easier for some families to avoid buying organic food for now.

If you have to make a call as far as which organic foods make the most difference, these are suggested foods from WebMD:
  • Apples
  • Baby food
  • Bell peppers
  • Celery
  • Cherries
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Imported grapes
  • Meat
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Poultry
  • Potatoes
  • Red raspberries
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries.
Organic items not worth buying, the article states, are seafood and cosmetics.

How does Indy compare? At the chain groceries, I'm not seeing much difference in prices in recent months. Weather (and children) permitting, I hope to go to the green market at Traders' Point Creamery this weekend and will let you know.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Plastic baby bottles: Another reason to stress

I am an anomoly in the moms-of-infants world. We "breastfeed electronically."

I pump full-time because the "traditional" method didn't work for us, and because I believe the benefits of breast milk for a child's long-term health are that strong. So seeing on the news this morning that I'm setting my children up for hormonal problems by delivering breast milk by bottle did not sit well at all.

The problem? We chose plastic.

I'll admit that I got lots of free samples from Babies R Us (Avent loves to distribute them), and that's what we're using. And I can hardly affored to switch out to all-glass at this point.

The good news is they have the lowest levels of leaching BPA compared to other brands.

What's a mom to do? Avent's Web site had nothing on reducing your risk, but I did a little research. According to what I've read:

International Downshifting Week: A reminder to slow down

International Downshifting Week, not surprisingly, starts on a weekend. What better way to begin than on a lazy (or it should be) Saturday morning.

The sad thing is, we apparently now need a week to remind us to slow down. And it's no wonder. With two children under the age of 3, it takes me three hours to get to the office, I cram in my eight hours, rush back to daycare, do dinner, fight over how we don't have to watch a movie, begin the bedtime routines, attempt to clean up and go to bed, only to begin again. And my friends with older children only say it gets worse as homework and activities collide.

International Downshifting Week is a great notion. Slowing down doesn't mean turning in your notice to be a stay-at-home mom or move to a rural area. But ut does entail being cognizant about what resources you spend - financial, environmental, emotional and timewise.

Just a few ideas on how I can downshift in my life:
  • Reduce - or at least don't add to - my extracurricular commitments. Not saying no, particularly when it's a cause I am dear to, adds extra stress in my life as I work to squeeze those projects in on a hectic schedule. Not to mention I expend a lot of gas going back and forth to activities.
  • Prep my meals on a weekend. By doing my shopping and chopping in one day, I'm ahead of the game for the week. This reduces extra trips to the store and the stress of a "starving" child as I'm trying to get meals started later in the evening.
  • Use some of my scrapbooking supplies and create my own cards. It saves an extra trip, and I'll have cards on hand when I remember at 10 p.m.
  • Buy in bulk when it makes sense. It can save money and reduce packaging.
  • Try that slow cooker again.
Read other tips on how to get started on downshifting your life.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The 'natural world?' What?

Are we becomming more disconnected from the natural world? Yes, suggests the Wall Street Journal's Juggle blog today.

This isn't a question of urban and suburban life. Technology is playing a role as well. Remember the summers spent outdoors? They've been replaced by Wiis and television. Our evenings are spent attached to American Idol, to our iPods, to our A/C.

It's little wonder that national park attendance has been declining over the last several years. People are ceasing to see the simple value of the outdoors.

When we moved, we made the conscious decision to select a neighborhood to close proximity to a large park and walking trails. My toddler whines about not weeding our garden or hula-hooping in our backyard. And any family celebration is cause to eschew a restaraunt in favor of a party in the local park.

Years ago, in my reporter life, I wrote about how the Shawnee Mission School District in Johnson County, Kansas, created nature preserves that were so well-received and provided an educational boost for the students. Taking a similar approach, even on a smaller level, could make such a difference in our children's understanding and acceptance of taking care of our environment.

It's easy to get back in touch with the "natural world," and so essential in helping our children develop a true sense of what life is about. Technology is great, but it doesn't beat a summer breeze.

Gas tax suspension: Will it make a difference?

John McCain wants to suspend gas taxes for the summer months. Pardon my skepticism, but it’s too little, too late.

"Because the cost of gas affects the price of food, packaging, and just about everything else, these immediate steps will help to spread relief across the American economy,'' McCain will say in today’s speech, Bloomberg reports.

Yes, I’d like to shave 18.4 cents or so a gallon off my gas prices, but truthfully, with gas prices at $3.50 a gallon, does 5 percent off matter? Big Oil, obviously, is still making its heavy profits at the detriment of the poor worldwide, who are facing rising gas prices a challenge to affording commuting to work, or worse, purchasing food.

So what can us “little guys” do? Practice conservation. If each of us takes little steps towards reducing our fuel usage, we can make a true difference.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Making real change in gas consumption

Gas this morning hit $3.49 a gallon, a record in Indianapolis. Which means in about 48 hours I’ll get another “stick it to the gas companies by not buying from Exxon” e-mail.

These kinds of e-mails make me nuts. First, there are no Exxon stations here; second, the stations that are here do very likely buy from Big Oil; third, a one-day hold on purchases just means you’ll have to buy the next.

Want real change in your gas prices? Consider doing some or all of the following:

  • Trade in your SUV. And if you can’t, be smarter about when and where you drive.
  • Avoid drive-through banking, restaurants or other services. You’re just burning gas while you wait. Park the car and go inside. You might burn a few calories instead of gas that way.
  • Switch your schedule or route and avoid rush-hour tie-ups. A few minutes can make a difference.
  • Move or change jobs, if needed. We found that when we moved to the other side of the metro, we saved enough in gas each month to make up the difference in our mortgage. And that was when gas was only $2 a gallon (the good ol' days.)
  • Watch your speed, your air filter and your tire pressure. All affect your mileage. You can even do my dad’s trick and keep a log of mileage on the odometer and how much added to the tank. If your mpg is going down, get your car looked at.
  • Carpool or take the bus, if you have that flexibility.
  • Ditch the gym membership and the drive back and forth. Get a bike or a pair of tennis shoes instead, and enjoy your weather in the spring and summer months.
    Piggyback your errands into one trip, or at least to and from the office.
  • Got a Netflix membership? Watch something online instead of having it mailed (and save the USPS the plane fuel from shipping).
  • Buy local. We don’t need grapes from Argentina. Enjoy the seasonal variety of locally produced produce, and help the little guy in the process.
More later. I'm just getting started!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Buy nothing update

I've decided I should be a politician. I'm finding too much "gray" area into a buying nothing challenge.
  • Is it "buying" if it doesn't cost anything? The baby needs shorts for the summer (don't want to toast legs in a car seat when it's 90.) Had a $10 coupon for the used kids store that went for that purchase.
  • What is "essential?" I guess that's more of a philosophical question for me to answer.
  • Do gifts count? Such as, the Mother's Day gift for my mom I have to order because it has to be produced (not discussing in case she reads it), and I'm not sure if waiting until May will give us enough time. And, the baby's baptism is in May, but the Christian bookstore in town will gift a percentage back to the church if an item is purchased this month. Obviously, it makes more sense to make a difference with what you buy.

Anyway, just a little rambling, partly because I'm not in the happiest mood. During a 15-minute or so nap, my expensive-but-worth-it aromatherapy lotion that got me through the back pain of pregnancy treated a Care Bear's back instead, and I figure about 1 cup of it was used by my toddler, between her belly, her blanket, the bear and my sheet! There may be a whopping tablespoon left. Frustrating. I guess that's not essential, either, though maddening.

I did have a few successes this week, though:

  • Planned to go to the local Mothers of Multiples sale to pick up a double jogging stroller. Decided en route the 2-seater we already have is pretty sturdy and will likely work through this summer. Took the toddler to the library instead to arm up with books.
  • Have decided to hold off on buying any work clothes, even though it's desparately needed.
  • Called in to a board meeting instead of wasting the gas to drive downtown. (OK, that one was less about environmentalism and more about the downpour outside, but I will count it.)
  • Decided to plan my meals for the week.
  • Held off on buying any NCAA National Championships gear from the University of Kansas bookstore. Now if that's not sacrifice, I don't know what is!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Pink soup and the power of one-pot meals

Pink soup may be my new favorite meal this spring.

Pink soup? you might ask. With a toddler, it's all about the packaging, and pink soup sounds far more appealing than chilled strawberry soup. And yes, she slupred it down.

Pink soup is a simple blend of 1 lb. strawberries, 2 containers vanilla yogurt and orange juice to taste. When I say blend, I mean it; throw it in the blender for a minute or two then pour into a covered dish and chill overnight.

The best part about pink soup, other than the simplicity and the taste, is the minimal amount of mess generated. One knife and the blender get washed, the tops of the berries could be composted and, if you're lucky enough to have cooperative recycling companies, the yogurt containers recycled.

With the advent of my second child, I'm learning to embrace the beauty of the one-pot meal. Sunday we cooked a roast and vegetables in a crock-pot while we happily played at the park and visited a garden shop. We returned to a ready dinner, without the heat generated from hours of an oven being on.

What a great concept for a Going Green Mama: Your food cooks while you're at work or play, the oven or stove isn't on incessantly and there's less mess at the end of the day!

Today's challenge: Locate and try out a one-pot meal (slow-cooked or no-cooked) and post the recipe and/or the link to it here.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Why I am a 'Going Green Mama'

My friend Sach e-mailed and asked why I started this blog and what prompted me to grow green. Let me share. I am sure many of us are in a similar boat.

I've always tried to do stuff, recycle cans and newspapers, reuse the backs of paper through the printer, hit the farmer's markets.

In the last year, I just thought it was time to do more. For me it's about balancing reality (costs, time, resources) vs. environmentalism. I can't justify $5 quarts of organic whole milk for my kids or $30 cleaner (seriously! I saw it once) with our lifestyle.

My decision to reduce my impact on the environment became more intense after the cake incident when I was pregnant. It made me think about what I was injesting, and I decided then to start looking at when organic products made sense for us. It's been a slow process as our town doesn't have many resources, whether farmer's markets, natural food stores or other shops. If it's not at Target or Wal-mart, it's going to require a significant drive, which makes it, once again about balancing resources. I have to decide whether it's worth the 25-mile drive to the closest winter market, for example.

The blog? It has been something I've kicked around for months. I have had lots of problems locating even basic stuff like natural cleaning recipies online. There are a lot of junk Web sites out there. My hope is to provide a clearinghouse of ideas for regular parents, working or not, like me.

The downstream value of dresses

This morning, I swear my daughter grew again overnight. It made me realize, yet again, how quickly our children grow and how many resources support them during that journey.

I'm talking clothes.

Savvy moms have known for some time that hand-me downs save money. But there's definitely an environmental impact, too, from landfill space to manufacturing to the semis that take the clothes to Target.

I've been fortunate with both my children to have a network of friends and co-workers who are thrilled to remove those too-tiny tees from their children's closets. And their generosity helps not only me, but several other families, saving money and eventual landfill space.

I know four people, two with girls, two with boys, who shared their leftovers with me. As we had a son this time, our daughter's clothes were able to help four others we knew, with other items going to a resale shop and to our friends at Fresh Start of Indiana, which provides transitional services to survivors of domestic violence. Very few things went to waste.

This week, I sorted my infant son's clothes and found I have enough in good shape to clothe him through size 2T. I may have to buy a few seasonal pieces in an unexpected growth spurt (such as the three weeks my daughter wore 12M clothes) and PJs in one size, but I've got him covered, plus have two diaper cases full for Fresh Start clients.

I've also recently discovered Zwaggle, a Web site for exchanging children's items. I'll let you know how it goes. Right now, I'm trying to "save" for a double jogging stroller from there.

So here's my challenge: As you're spring cleaning, don't just toss old kid clothes, especially if they're in good condition. If you don't have someone to share with, find an agency tht could truly make use of the items for its clients. You'll make a difference for those families and for us all.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Buy Nothing Challenge - a scrapbooker's complex

I stumbled on the "Crunchy Chicken" blog during a break at work (quite possibly the most unusual blog name ever), and the writer is proposing a month of buying nothing that's not edible, essential, or previously owned.

Facing a cluttered house from Hurricane N. (my 2 year old) and quite a large gas bill from 28 hours in the car two weeks ago following a death in the family, I think it's worth a shot. Better late than never.

Of course taking part in the Buy Nothing Challenge means delaying one of my favorite pasttimes, scrapbooking. While I love it, I told my husband the other day that it's interesting that for someone who wants to make a more positive impact on the environment, that I engage in a hobby based on the use and accumulation of paper, lots of paper. My children's scrapbooks take far more space than the photo album I have of my childhood through eighth grade, and neither of them have hit the age of 3 yet.

But, I think this challenge is worth a shot. Maybe I'll tackle those previously printed photos. Dig deep into my stash of papers and embellishments to use them up. Or, gasp, take my latest and greatest photos and create the pages digitally.

And until May 1, I will stay away from the hallowed aisles of Archiver's. Unless of course, the coupon for the five free sheets of paper doesn't count...!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Shedding light on CFL bulbs

I am all for CFL bulbs as a way to save energy, so imagine my surprise when I read a story in the latest issue of Down East magazine about a $2,000 bill associated with cleaning up a broken light bulb in a woman's home.

The article stated that, yes, there is some mercury in the bulbs but common sense should be used in clean up of a broken bulb. The article referenced the Maine state Web site, which offers these tips and others:
  • Do not use a vacuum cleaner to clean up the breakage. This will spread the mercury vapor and dust throughout the area and could potentially contaminate the vacuum.
  • Ventilate the area by opening windows before and hours after clean-up.
  • Leave the area for 15 minutes before returning to begin the cleanup.
  • Place broken pieces in a secure closed container, preferably glass.
  • Remove the container with the breakage and cleanup materials from your home.
  • Wash your hands and face after cleaning up.

Unbroken bulbs, of course, should be recycled.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The environmental impact of babies

No, this isn't a discussion of cloth vs. disposable diapers. I am a working mom, 'nuff said.

Yesterday I was at the grocery buying the first of many rounds of baby food, and I got to thinking about the considerable amount of stuff a baby requires and generates.

They say breast milk is best; even so, as a working mom, this isn't a uncostly proposition. You have:

  • a pump (and batteries, if you have to pump in an inconvenient location)
  • bottles for daycare
  • freezer bags for storage (in case you're unable to keep up at a future date)
  • and all the electricity generated for the above
  • not to mention, replacement nipples as the baby grows, and the junk generated by the size-1s that are included with each bottle sold.

And I have yet to find a recyclable baby bottle! Yes, there are some glass ones sold but at $10-15 each you can imagine the expense. I'd love to see Avent or another company introduce recyclable plastic bottles.

Then there's later feedings. As your child grows you're facing an enormous stash of empty glass jars each week. (Let's not even address the cost, which goes up exponentially if you choose organic or dha-laced products.) I live in a community that limits the amount of recyclables to one bin per week so this is a frustration.

Yes, I intend to supplement my baby's diet with processed versions of the foods we get from the CSA this summer, depending on time and texture of the food. Storage is always an issue.

Finally there's the waste generated by all the other stuff:

  • packaging for everything
  • medication and vitamin bottles (which again, is rarely recyclable)
  • wipes
  • batteries for swing (if your kid had colic, you'd understand!)
  • clothes that become to stained to pass along to another new mom.

Does anyone have ideas on how to minimize your baby's impact on the environment? I'd love to hear ideas.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Joining a CSA

I've always been a big fan of farmers markets. I love wandering the colorful rows of tables and examining the fresh produce and other homemade goods. My husband and I have always considered it a treat to go to the Saturday-morning markets, and I always looked forward to mid-March, when the market would open and we'd be teased with plants to add to the year's garden.
And then I moved to Indiana. Here, the planting season starts about a month later than in Kansas City, and the markets don't even open until June. In my community, there's a small market, open a few short months, and I'm limited to a few tables with the same offerings: tomatoes, peppers, beans and corn.
There are other markets, but those require a long drive (30-90 minutes), something that's difficult to do with young children and becoming more of an issue with soaring gas prices.
Then, about a year ago I read an article in Time magazine about community supported agriculture, or CSAs. I loved the idea that people could buy into a program where you could be treated with fresh produce on a weekly basis. I investigated on, but the closest program I could find delivered 45 minutes from my home. Not convenient, and certainly not cost-effective.
I tried again this year and was fortunate enough to find a program that has a delivery point on my drive home from work. While it's expensive to invest in the program (payment for the season is required up-front so that the farmers can purchase seed and supplies for the season), beginning in May we'll have a weekly bounty of 10 quarts or so of organic produce of all kinds to sample. The offerings include everything from the traditional tomatoes and lettuces to foods outside my comfort zone - rhutabaga and other produce that I wouldn't normally jump to buy on my own.
All of this for less than $20 a week, far less than I'd spend on impulse purchases at the market. Now, we'll see if my toddler will buy into it!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The tale of the insecticide cake

I care about the environment. I think most of us do.
And for years, I recycled my newspapers and cans, frequented the farmer's market, and basked in my 40-mpg Toyota Echo on my commute.
And then came the cake.
There was a party at work last year, and we all ate the cake and joked about how funny it tasted.
A few weeks later, the person in charge said it turned out that it was laced with insecticide.
And I was pregnant.
Thankfully, we learned he was wrong, but it got me thinking. What am I ingesting on a daily basis (besides my beloved Diet Coke)? Should I go organic completely? Is there more I can be doing?
I started searching for information, and it's tough to find good information for people who aren't living in places like Seattle or San Francisco or who have a big budget. I live and work in a Midwestern suburb, and don't have the luxury of a large lot to grow my own produce. We also don't have many community resources to grow green.
So, after several months of consideration, I've started this blog as a way to share the information I've learned, so that the "everyday moms" can make a small difference in our world.