Wednesday, July 30, 2008

In praise of Papa's tub

When my first child was born, my mother trotted out an old tub, hidden in the attic for years. It was used by at least two previous generations of Johnsons and for a quarter of a century had waited for the next.

I remember all too vividly the comments by friend when I mentioned I didn't need that cheap plastic bathtub from the baby store, that instead we'd use the old enamel tub.

But what if she falls? I was asked.

Hmm...I thought that was why we watched our kids.

We sadly noted that some of the coating had been scraped over time and it was beginning to rust. This would be the last generation - and child - to use it. Still, the tub managed to make the move with us to our new home.

Last night, though, I noticed the tub in my daughter's closet and got it out, thinking I at least could get a photo of the baby in it, just like his sister, mother and grandfather before him. I set it down on the floor, and sat the baby, fully clothed inside. He was almost too long.

My daughter asked what he was doing. I said,without thinking, that he was playing boat. Before I knew it, they were "toot-tooting" all around her room, the normally serious baby banging his hands against the sides and laughing.

Yes, I could have bought that plastic tub, which would have been tossed aside or shared in mere months. And I'll admit I actually considered buying one this time around. But then I would have missed a moment.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Of waists and waste

Americans eat too much. That much is certain. Two-thirds of us today are overweight, and the numbers of morbid obesity jump each year.

I know this not only from the news but in the daily role of helping market our hospital’s weight loss services. There truly is a need for us to shape up.

But the reality is this waste is hitting not only our waistlines – but also the environment. If the average American is consuming 1,250 to 1,500 calories more than they should each day, that’s a lot of food that never needed to be processed. Writes Julia Whitty, Mother Jones' environmental correspondent:

Nineteen percent of total energy used in the US is tied to producing and
distributing food.

So I’m doing my part. (OK, it’s not entirely altruistic; I’ll be the first to admit I’m not exactly a size 5.) So when Chile proposed a new challenge to cut out discretionary eating for August, I jumped on board.

I’m either really brave, or really foolish.

So here I am, on the record. For thirty days, I am going to reduce my intake by:
  • Avoiding restaurants, take-out, prepared deli foods, and frozen meals. Shouldn’t be too hard, being on the unemployment diet; however, I need to be cautious of my habit of eating those oh-so-appetizing frozen meals.
  • Avoiding highly processed and refined food stripped of its nutrients. This should be easy as long as I stick to my plan of planning meals.
  • Avoiding sugary foods and drinks. I admit even being diabetic that my sweet tooth will get to me, so I’ll plan ahead and incorporate fruits to help stave those cravings.
  • Avoiding food eaten after physical hunger is satisfied (or to fix a low blood sugar). Yes, I need to cut out my snacking, which tends to be stress-related.
  • Watching my caffeine intake. Note I didn’t say significantly reduce!! Water it is.

I've probably gone a little overboard, but there. It’s public. So I now have little excuse to get into gear!

Anyone else in?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Harvesting herbs

Few things bring out the flavor of your cooking like fresh herbs. Growing your own is so simple a toddler can do it - a pot, a plant, some dirt, water and a little attention are all that's needed.

But there comes a time mid-summer when you're faced with the choice of eating more than you can fathom or letting it char to a crisp in the hot sun. And you may wonder, What now?

It's a question I considered this weekend, when I was faced with not only my blossoming oregano and purple basil but also the bunches of basil, mint and dill that were the centerpiece of the CSA share this week. (I received a bite here, a bite there of everything else - what do you do with a golf-ball size red pepper or two bunches of broccoli that only yield 1/2 cup?)

Instead I checked out options for perserving what I had for the winter months.

Drying or freezing herbs are options, but as I don't have a dryer and, with little ones, cringe at the prospect of having a hot oven for 15 hours (not to mention what it'd do to my electric bill!) I opted for freezing.

Here is where your old ice cube trays - long abandoned for ice makers - come in handy. They're an easy repository for about 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs. Cover with boiling water and place in the freezer. (Be sure to label your cubes, paricularly once you've moved them to a storage container. You'd hate to have any surprises.)

As for my dill, I used it on a splurge of broiled salmon with olive oil and dill and made homemade dill butter to dress up ordinary steamed green beans.

Dill butter
recipe from Whole Foods
makes 1/2 cup

4 oz. unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon garlic/1 clove, minced

Mix all ingredients in a bowl; season with salt and pepper. Spoon into serving bowl, and use immediately, or place on wax paper and shape into 4-inch log. Refrigerate or freeze until needed.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Going green with Emeril

The demise of "Emeril Live" on the Food Network brought much sadness to my husband and 3 year old. The pair had made a tradition of watching "Live" - fondly known as "Man's Cooking Show" in our household - each night.

This week, though, I made two discoveries: One, we have TV on demand, and it doesn't cost anything extra. Two, Emeril is on it.

Emeril has launched "Emeril Green" on the fledgling Discovery Green network, which is finally bringing a few more shows on the air. Rather than his usual "event" shows like "Emeril Live," this show brings a person one-on-one with Emeril to solve a cooking dilemna, from shopping at Whole Foods to cooking and sampling the dishes.

I haven't been brave enough to attempt any of the meals yet, but they're definitely caught our interest. I think my family's found a new show to watch, and the great thing is, we don't have to push back our bedtime to enjoy it.

Feeling like a foodie? Find his recipes here.

Photo from Google image search.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Green on the cheap: Creating kid art

Last night, my daughter was in a creative mood. Before I knew it, she was into the box for one of her birthday gifts - a Crayola magic paint sprayer of some kind. Allegedly it sprays ink that can only be seen on specialty paper. All I know is I'm fighting a battle against finding this plastic contraption and its colors being toted around my house. Whatever happened to crayons?

It's a personal reminder that sometimes you simply have to sit down with your child and unleash that creative potential. Particularly when arts programs are being cut left and right, it's our obligation to help foster creative expression in our little ones.

This week's Green on the Cheap focuses on simple ways you can support that creative impulse in your little ones and still be environmentally friendly.
  • Reuse your supplies. Create a stash of leftover papers of all types - direct mail, printer paper, Christmas cards, etc. - for art projects, making cards, wrapping presents, pretend post offices, etc. Likewise, I hang on to extra stickers and scrapbooking embellishments for my child to create her "heart" with.
  • Recycle. Plagued by broken crayons around your house? You can melt them in sprayed muffin tins at 250 degrees to create new crayons for your little ones. If you're truly adventurous, make your own paper.
  • Give a second life to kitchen trash. Plastic bottles, coffee filters, egg cartons, bottle caps, and other household items can easily be converted into kids crafts.
  • Use Mother Nature. Remember potato stamps from when you were a child? We (OK, an adult) occasionally carved designs into a halved potato to stamp them on paper. Easy to compost when the thrill is gone. Older children may enjoy creating dyes from fallen leaves.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A culinary oops

Between my CSA and recent farmers market buys, I've been loaded up with lots of produce this week.

But I learned a lesson this week - make sure you read the e-newsletter from your CSA.

While unpacking the box this weekend, my 3 year old was shouting out the names of the items inside. Down to the parsley. Yes, at 3, she knows what fresh parsley looks like.

The problem? It wasn't.

In my attempts to do something with the massive squash and zucchini I'd purchased Wednesday, I found a recipe for a casserole that I tried to bake this weekend. On the ingredient list was fresh parsley. Great, I thought. I have it!

Or not. In case you didn't know, cilantro and Italian parsley are part of the same family, but have much different flavors. Bon Appetite's Web site describes Italian parsley as having a "clean, slightly peppery taste." Cilantro (or corriander) is "somewhere between bright citrus and soapy" and pairs well with spicy food.

How close are they? Look at these pictures I found on Google Images. The top is Italian parsley; the bottom is cilantro. Very slight differences, and if you're suffering from a summer cold as I was, it's difficult to discern a taste.

However, after chopping and cooking the herb in my casserole, it wasn't quite the success I'd counted on. So that's why my zucchini and squash casserole tasted funny!

(Of course, had I read the second e-mail from the CSA this weekend throroughly, I'd have saved myself from an interesting culinary attempt!)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ten steps on the path to being green

Low Impact Man recently asked readers what their recommended first steps for going green were. Here are 10 great ideas from reader comments to get you going:

  1. Read. Find something that sparks your passion. Beth Terry writes: “I'd give him/her the article "Plastic Ocean". That was my way in, the piece that broke my heart and made me realize I had to do something.” Brandon Watkins recommends another site: The Story of Stuff.
  2. Explore your passions. Writes Jenn: “If you're a foodie, start with good food and using less. If you love to bike, work that into your routine. If you're already a bit wiggy about water use, then explore all those options first. It's much easier to start on a change if you're already inspired.”
  3. Take small first steps. Switching to CFL bulbs, buying reusable bags and limiting your paper towel use are three examples of quick wins.
  4. Be mindful of how you spend. Saving a few dollars or cents may not be worth any long-term damage. I was reminded of that very thing a few weeks ago when I mentioned I’d swapped aluminum cans for plastic cups of Diet Coke to save some cash. Adds Hanna: “Buy less things. Don´t buy on impulse. Ask yourself if the thing your [sic] buying is something that you REALLY need. If something you own works don´t buy a new one.”
  5. Go local. Frequent the local farmers market. Writes Brandon Watkins: “I feel like there's something genuinely mind-altering about knowing where your food comes from, meeting the people that grow it, and getting a reminder every time you make a meal about your impact on the world and your own effort to be ‘green.’ …It forces you to think and build localization into your mindset.”
  6. Go even more local – grow in your own backyard. Onions, lettuce, tomatoes and herbs are simple things that can even be planted on a balcony container. “Getting in touch with your own food by getting your fingers dirty is the quickest way to change your thought patterns about other green issues,” Gavin writes. “A little bit of action to feed yourself goes a long way in the change to a more sustainable lifestyle and to help solve one of our planetary issues.”
  7. Put off plastic packaging. Avoid plastic bags and non-recyclable containers. Look at what items you purchase that can be not packaged in plastic (i.e. buy in bulk, visit the local market or don’t rewrap produce in another layer of plastic.)
  8. Change your transportation. Look into bicycling, walking, carpooling or anything that doesn’t demand one person, one motorized vehicle.
  9. Make changes at home. Shorten your shower; unplug electrical items when not in use. Limit your dryer use. Turn down the water heater.
  10. Recycle what you can. You might not have the luxury of curbside recycling for everything, but look at what you can do. At my home, we recycle #1 and #2 plastic and cans at home; drive the office paper, junk mail and newspaper to a freestanding drop off on the way from daycare and leave the plastic bags in the drop-off contained in Kroger. It is not always convenient, but it works for now.

One last thought: A comment by arduous: “Being mindful of how your actions affect others. Everything else stems from mindfulness.”

Monday, July 21, 2008

Monday morning musings

Random thoughts this Monday morning:

Have a great week!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Pass it on: Sites for swapping

Freecycle and craigslist are two great resources for passing along free (or inexpensive) items. And I'm still experimenting with Zwaggle, which allows you to trade children's items, with mixed results.

But what do you do with those piles of dust-collecting books or abandoned CDs?

A few Web sites exist that key into your hobbies and allow for free to low-cost swapping.

Among them:

By sharing your items with other interested readers or listeners, you earn credits that you can redeem for swapped items of your own. While you're responsible for the shipping costs, you also don't have to purchase these items new.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

What are the best farmers' markets?

Eating Well has published its list of the best farmers' markets in the country. While I wish they shared details about them, it's a starting point for singling out great stops when you're traveling or simply doing your weekly shopping.

Personally, I can vouch for two: the Lawrence Farmers' Market in Lawrence, Kan., and Trader's Point Creamery in the Indianapolis suburb of Zionsville.

The Lawrence Market I frequented as a broke college student at the University of Kansas in the early 90s, back in the day when people asked quizzically, "What's a farmer's market?" I remember roaming the stands of produce, soaps and quirky homemade goods that were so prevalent in the then-bohemian college town.

The market is the oldest in the state, dating back to 1976, and has exploded to more than 80 members. I'm just a decade too late!

Trader's Point, affectionately known in our home as the "horse farmer's market," is an all-organic market held at the dairy form just northwest of I-465 and 86th Street in Indianapolis. I love that it's year-round and provides a great variety of goods, from sausages to salsas, from bouquets to breads, from coffees to cleaning products. It's a great treat for us to attend, though it usually requires a trip to the dairy bar for a chocolate or mango milkshake.

What do you think? Do you agree with the list? Are there others that warrant a mention?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hot date at the farmers market

It is 87 degrees outside, a Knozone Action Day and arguable feeling much hotter as my husband and I roamed the city streets at the Indianapolis Farmers Market at the City Market this afternoon.

I hadn't been to the City Market in about two years, and the one time I'd been, the selection was lacking. I was pleasantly surprised.

The streets were packed, adding to the stuffiness of the summer heat. And tables were swarming with fresh produce and eager shoppers.

Today, we opted to stock up on a few things we're unable to find at our around-the-corner markets. A large box of peaches, which will be chopped and likely frozen for an out-of-season winter treat. Summer squash and zucchini that were at least a foot long, earmarked for a few dishes I swore I'd try (when I actually remembered to buy enough of one or the other.)

The one thing I missed was the wax beans, which were snatched up while making my peach purchase. That is for another week, or at least I hope.

100th post already

I logged on this afternoon and couldn’t believe it – my 100th post! Of course, this is a testament to three things: that I love to write, that I have a "must do it now before I forget" way of living and that I can’t be quiet.

Writing an environmental blog for people who are newer to the idea of being green has been a fun experiment. A year ago, I felt that recycling my newspapers, cans and plastic bottles was making a difference. Yes, it does, help but we can do much, much more to make this world a safer place for future generations.

I’ve enjoyed sharing as I learn, and I appreciate you all reading my vents when I just don’t understand people.

If you have a great tip, question or something you’d like to read here, post a comment or e-mail me at goinggreenmama at gmail.

Just for fun: The weirdest way to find me? Being a Web person by day, I am in love with Google Analytics. And it cracks me up how people are finding this site. Terms like “edible landscaping,” “new parents going green” or “green parenting” don’t surprise me. But what about:

  • 10 benefits to raising gas prices (Are there benefits?)
  • are yoshino cherries edible? (What are yoshino cherries?)
  • caffeine fix at the office (OK, maybe I’ve rambled too much about my addiction.)
  • how far will a golf cart go (I don’t know!)
  • pennsylvania "mail pieces" (Never have been to Pennsylavnia)
  • mama's golf (I don’t golf.)
  • ted mininni (Um, hi Ted??? Not sure how you showed up here...)
Have a great day!

Charity in a gas-strapped world

This morning I looked at the day's schedule and lamented that I have a board activity to go to. Not that I don't care. It's just at $4.19 a gallon, every mile becomes scrutinized.

I've written before how non-profits are hurting due to rising gas and food prices. But here's also where they are hurting: in volunteers. It gets harder and harder to justify costs. While people I believe want to make a difference, they also want to conserve and make the most of their miles.

So here's a thought: Virtual volunteering. Many, many organizations around the country post their needs for virtual volunteers at (There were more than 2,200 possibilities when I searched today.)

You can, from the comfort of your home, do such things as:
  • Web design
  • Write grants
  • Plan events
  • Host a baby shower
  • Design a MySpace page
  • Make breast cancer lapel pins
  • Create lists for fund-raising
  • and more.

Even if you don't have the cash for gas, consider making a small difference by helping out at home. Your seemingly small effort could make a big difference in someone's life.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Grilling can go greener

Whether over gas or charcoal, grilling in our family is part of what makes summer summer.

While my husband prefers to sneak in grilling year-round, I've always bristled at him kicking up a flame over a steak or a few chicken breasts. Seems like such a waste of resources, even if you keep only one burner heated. Think about all the wasted heat.

What I've learned the last few months is that we can make our grilling a bit "greener" by using more of that retail space on the rack. No, I'm not grilling extra hunks of meat at a time. Instead, we've incorporated veggies: cauliflower, potatoes and asparagus, just to name a few. And we're planning to expand.

Vegetables are not just relegated to kabobs, as many people might think. There are many, many fabulous recipes that you can try the next time you just have to kick up the heat outside.

Here are just a few that our family enjoys:

Grilled cauliflower
adapted from Andrea Chesman's The Vegetarian Grill

2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. chopped fresh basil
2 T. chopped fresh oregano
1 1/2 tsp. coarse-grained mustard
1 1/2 T. apple juice
1 1/2 T. apple cider vinegar
1/3 c. canola oil
1/4 tsp salt
black pepper

Pour over one head of cauliflower, torn into large florets. Marinate at least 20 min. Grill 10 min. or so on medium-high heat.

Grilled asparagus
A family favorite -- so much so that my infant snatched it up from me and knawed the ends off of spear after spear for 20 min. the other night.

1/2 c. olive oil
crushed tarragon and cracked black pepper to taste

Pour over asparagus spears. Marinate at least 15 min. Grill about 10 min. on medium-high heat.

If you're considering grilling vegetables, here are a few tips from The Vegetarian Grill:
  • Vegetables should be tossed in oil or a marinade before cooking to keep them from sticking to the grill.
  • Ripe vegetables do cook more quickly than underripe ones.
  • Vegetables are done when fork-tender.
  • "When vegetables are grilled, the sugars naturally occurring within as well as any sugars in the marinade coating the outside will caramelize, producing a neice brown, slightly crunchy exterior. This is completely different from charring, which happens next. Charred, scorched food is bitter and unpleasant, so be prepared to remove the vegetables when they are done - and not simply when the timer goes off."
  • Humidity may cause your food to cook more slowly.

Monday, July 14, 2008

'Have a handmade holiday' challenge

Christmas in July. Actually, in my family, it's Christmas shopping in July.

What began as a survival tactic as a broke newlywed, recent college graduate - starting my holiday shopping six months in advance, so that I could actually afford gifts - has stuck as a family tradition. And while my sister-in-law laughs at me now, it's me who's laughing and truly enjoying the month of December, when I am not anywhere near a shopping mall.

It's the middle of July, and I haven't started shopping yet (with the exception of a Christmas toddler dish set I bought at Babies R Us, clearanced for $2, back in March). Given the vast evolution of our financial situation, I'm already thinking about the most cost-effective yet meaningful ways I can celebrate the holiday season with my loved ones.

I feel this holiday season will be very much akin to the months after 9/11, when shoppers scrambled to stock up on essentials - sweaters, jeans, etc., rather than the latest and greatest Nintendo. This year, I plan to be more creative in my gift-giving and stay away from many of the stores if I can.

So we have five months and 11 days until Christmas, a few days less until Hannukah. I am encouraging you to think how you can use your talents (or even purchase someone else's) to create unique gifts this holiday season.

My challenge to you? To come up with one "handmade" gift for the holidays, birthday or other gift-giving event.

A few ideas to get you started:
  • Maybe you can't live without hitting the closest scrapbook store. Use up your stash to create a personal album for someone who doesn't scrapbook, make a set of notecards for your grandmother, create an "art kit" for a kid.
  • Love to take photos? Create a calendar for the grandparents of favorite family pictures from the year.
  • Cook like crazy. If you're not a baker, consider making a few dishes that can be stored in the freezer until needed. Who wouldn't want to have dinner simply ready to heat on a hectic evening?
  • Create a gift certificate for babysitting, lawn mowing, car repair, computer repair, dish washing - any service, no matter how small, that would be greatly appreciated by the recipient.
  • Knit up a frenzy. If you're a newbie, create new scarves, dishcloths, or other simple items.
  • Not crafty? Challenge yourself to make a gift basket of items from your local market: a soap/lotion basket or bottles of local wines or sauces, etc.
While I'm not planning to give away what I might be doing this year, I will post ideas as we get closer to the holidays. And yes, if I can do this as a working parent, so can you.
So who's up for having a little handmade holiday?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Hey look, it's lettuce...

Lettuce plucked fresh from the garden is a usual fare in the summer season. And I don't have a problem with it, really.

But my CSA box once again had another bag of lettuce mix. Not that I'm ungrateful, but I'm very interested in some of the other things I've been promised along the way, like kohlrabi, broccoli and other vegetables and herbs I've yet to be brave enough to buy on my own.

After a two-week delay after the Fourth of July holiday, I was hoping to have something new and usual in this week's share. Not so much the case. Lettuce, lots of lettuce. And my all-time favorite, or not, green peppers. And tomatoes. A few sprigs of basil. And a small head of cabbage is the most out-there I have.

Unfortunately, we had storms all morning, so we weren't able to get to the farmers market this morning to flesh out what we had. So we're using this as an excuse to ensure that we use up all of last weekend's produce and let nothing go to waste.

On the menu this week are fajitas (again) as well as acorn squash, which I sauteed in a little butter today for lunch. I'm also experimenting with a strawberry salsa recipe from the May/June issue of Paula Deen's magazine.

In the meantime, I am ready for a fresh new salad recipe to use up that lettuce, and I'm all ears. Post your ideas/links you've found here!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Writer wrap-up for the weekend

The great thing about going green is that people are talking about it and sharing ideas on how they can make their lifestyles more environmentally friendly. Whether it's frequenting a farmers market or growing their own food, practicing conservation or just elimination of things, change is heating up this July.

Here are just a sampling of what's online this week:

Our organic CSA shares updates on how our wacky weather is impacting crops (produce is bolting left and right) and provides several recipes to try, including:
  • New Potato Salad
  • Roasted New Potato Salad with Tomatoes and Green Beans
  • Baked Zucchini Gratin
  • Zucchini Crisp
  • Cabbage Potato Koora
  • Vegetable Kabobs

Organic Needle muses about her "carncinogic joy in a can," Diet Coke, and how she struggles to kick the habit. Yes, someday, I may possibly blog about the same.

Fake Plastic Fish writes about the struggles of switching to a low-carbon diet.

'Burban Mom explains about how we can switch to renewable energy sources - and what to do if that's not an option in your area.

Soil got you down? May Dreams Gardens talks about how you can help improve it and stress less about the clay, rocks, etc., that's between you and something actually growing.

5 Minutes for Going Green is a relatively new site focusing on quick tips for, what else, growing green. It launched this week, but right now only has a few quick tips, such as conserving gas and water. It'll be interesting to see how this site progresses.

Oh, and if you haven't already, heat up your summer with a little luau. And be environmentally friendly by winning previously loved luau decorations to get you started!

[ Edited January 28, 2009 to remove the name of the Indianapolis-based CSA, which claims one of its customers does not speak truthfully about her experiences. Link removed Jan. 30, 2009. Want a CSA for 2009? Find CSA programs in Indianapolis or Bloomington, Indiana, by visiting this posting, or visit to find one near you! ]

Strike one for being environmentally friendly

High-efficiency appliances have found their way into our homes as we swap out dying appliances. With children in our home, I will more than make up the difference in cost over the years.

Of late, our Kenmore HE washer was having problems. We'd keep getting error messages, and the washer would stop running. It was getting to the point that we'd have to nurse it through a wash cycle -- to the point of a load of wash taking four hours. Highly inefficient and aggravating, from every standpoint.

Finally, my husband called the service technician. (This is what warranties are for, but it takes a month of aggravation to get things done.) What was the problem? My washer sucked up little blue socks and my cloth nursing pads, blocking the intake valve. Sigh. Strike one for being environmentally friendly. I'm off to buy a mesh sack to wash them in.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bagging the plastic habit

I pledged to bag the plastic bag habit for July. In truth, it's a lot harder than it looks.

One week into my experiment, I've still acquired four shopping bags and rescued a newspaper bag from work (thinking it's just right for dirty diapers on the run).

Lack of planning was the culprit in each instance. I'd run into the store thinking I'd just grab one thing and come out with several cloaked in plastic.

The latest time was the result of great intentions. I darted into Goodwill after work, hoping to pick up a serving dish or two that I could carry meals to a flood victim at our church later this week. It was that or buy disposable, and I reasoned that if the couple couldn't use these temporarily, the clients at their homeless organization might.

So I saved some dishes but at the price of bags. But at least Goodwill does #2 recyclable.

I do realize that my small effort has paid off somewhat in our cleaning closet, which typically showers us with a sea of yellow, white, brown and purple bags.

Still, I have plenty to reuse or recycle. If you're like me, here are just a few things you can do with your shopping bag supply:
  • Use it as packing material. There's a wierd satisfaction in shipping them off to be my mother-in-law's problem!
  • Use it for diaper (or dog waste) disposal. Far better than those wastes of space and bags, the Diaper Genies. We even reuse or bread and newspaper bags for this.
  • Take your lunch. It's not exciting, but who cares?
  • Use it for a trash bag in your vehicle.
  • Line your trash can. I haven't bought a can liner for my bathroom trash can in years. Sure, it's not scented like flowers. I can deal with that.
  • Hang it on the door knob of a room for a fast place to store your recyclables as you clean up.
  • Leave a few in the back of your car for those unexpected filthy shoes or clothes that inevitably happen with your children (no matter how old they are).
  • Bring them back to the store - whether to house a return or to reuse again.
  • For the good planner, save them up and return them to the store for recycling. Locally, our Kroger and Wal-mart are now accepting plastic bags and packaging.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Green on the cheap: Save that shopping list!

Grocery shopping in my family typically means one of two things:
  • A hastily written list, scribbled on a piece of scrap paper or the back of an envelope
  • A frantic phone call to the other spouse, wondering what we needed in the first place.
Neither of these choices are particularly great and inevitably result in additional unplanned purchases and extra trips back to the store.

I recently learned about a new service online, Don't Forget the Milk. This admittedly simple Web site helps you track your grocery list and even send a copy to your e-mail, cell phone or Palm.

The site allows you to jump-start with your choices from a basic list of groceries, which, if you have time on your side, you can track by price point, location within a store and the store of your choice (i.e. grocery X and warehouse club Y). I did play with it a little bit, and while it wasn't entirely intuitive for me, it certainly would make far more sense than those tiny scraps of paper and partially wasted trips.

If you're interested in taking a look, the Web address is

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Your ‘family footprint’ in the midst of chaos

Peak oil. Gas crisis. Housing crisis. Credit crisis.

And by the way, we’re destroying the earth.

It’s no wonder that people are becoming discouraged. As one poster to my site wrote this week, she would like to hear “some positive, feel-good news!”

It’s easy to be frustrated. But it’s also easy to make positive changes, even on the most local level you can: Your neighbors, friends, family and coworkers.

No Impact Man wrote yesterday about "The questions of love, kindness and the end of oil." In it, he reminds us that at the center of taking care of the earth should be the legacy we create for others in our lifetimes and for generations to come. The impact of how we live our lives today should not be ignored.

"What we need is not to draw lines between people," he writes. "We need to draw lines around them."

Quoting his father, he writes: "You should worry less about your carbon footprint and more about your family footprint."

It’s true that in an increasingly chaotic life – one that threatens our most basic needs of safety, security, housing and nourishment – that often we tend to be egocentric in our approach to solving the problem(s) at hand. But perhaps it’s time to take a larger look at how we can make a better difference and improve our "family footprint."

  • Are we making amends to others? Rebuild bridges to those we have crossed (or have been hurt by). Even a simple “I’m sorry,” or “I forgive you.” Forgiveness can work wonders, for you and for others. Even if you’re not a spiritual person, think of the health benefits of the reduction of stress that has built up from holding in those grudges.
  • Are we building community? When is the last time you said more than a passing “Hi” to your neighbor? Get to know your neighbors, your co-workers, the people you worship or attend classes with. Call an old friend; send a real e-mail (not a forwarded joke) to a family member. Share a meal or a drink; take a walk together. Research continually shows that the more people we know – and know better than just being friends on MySpace – the healthier and happier we tend to be.
  • Are we reaching out to others in need, based on what we can provide? You don’t have to give large sums of money to make a difference. Perhaps it’s a ride for a cancer patient to a treatment session. Or a meal to a new mom or a displaced flood victim. Or a few cans of corn for the local food pantry.
  • Are we teaching others? Share your skills, or learn a new one. Whether it’s fixing a hem, cooking a meal, potting a tomato. All of us have skills and talents that we can share with others that can make a difference in our lives. If nothing else, you’ve helped save someone the cost of a house call or outsourcing work if they cannot afford it.
  • Do we have faith? Faith in your God (if you choose to believe in a particular religion)? Faith in other people? Hope is essential to get through troubled times.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Green karma and other Monday thoughts

It's Monday morning. Our work e-mail has been cut off from the outside world. It's a perfect excuse to get online and share a few quick thoughts:
  • Is there a such thing as green karma? I've taken to drafting posts on paper while my kids are playing, so I can reduce my screen time. However, several of my torn-out pages have gone missing! Payback for paper waste?
  • There are things I never thought I would say as a parent. Like, "Pick up your mess, or no farmers market today." But the best? "Honey, don't wash the garlic in the bathroom."
  • I committed this month to reduce my plastic bag usage. So far, my count is at two. My lesson learned? Even if you think you're going in for one item, bring a bag just in case.
  • I'm still surprised that with the number of stores selling reusable bags that so few people are using them. The checkout boy at Kroger this weeked was utterly confused - and even tried to double-bag them.
  • My cousin, who visited from Arizona this weekend, was appalled by the lack of convenient recycling here in Indiana. I've lamented the lack of services here, but my aunt has it worse - there is no curbside recycling in her town, and she has to travel to recycle papers. I've toyed with the idea of hording my #5 plastic stuff so it can be recycled later, but it comes down to a space, time and gas issue. So my question is this: Given gas costs, how far would you drive to recycle?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A little luau love

Our luau-themed birthday celebrations this week (yes, we had two) were a smash, and I'll be the first to admit that when planning the parties I was sorely tempted by the vast amount of luau-themed party decorations and favors I saw.

Ultimately, I reigned things in and kept things to a $12 bill and not a lot of waste. How did I manage?
  • $4 went toward a tablecloth that will get plenty of use and will be easier to clean up after the kids (until it gets destroyed - possibly sooner than later, given the number of fork marks stabbed into it by a restless preschooler.)
  • $4 went for freezer cups for the kids to keep their drinks cool at the neighbor celebration. It was fun for them, and we didn't have the waste or hassle of giveaway bags that way.
  • $4 went to leis, the one extravagance, which I admittely overbought.
By breaking the party to a friend party and a neighbor party, we didn't have to rely as heavily on paper plates and cups, which we already had on hand.

The rest of the party decor came from two sources: my office, where a package of unused tabletop pineapples faced the fate of a dumpster during a recent storeroom cleanup, and a scrapbook store my mother frequents, which recently had a tropical-themed crop.

The decorations are fun, but after a week of the tropics, this Midwestern home needs a purge. But I hate the idea of throwing decorations away if I can find them a good home.

So here's the deal: We still have two more months of summer, plenty of time for a celebration or two. So, whether you want a Polynesian-themed party or just pineapples for your preschool class, I have decorations and some leftover leis up for grabs.

All you need to do to enter the giveaway is add your name to the comments section of this post, and tell me what you'd like to read more about on this blog.

The contest ends July 15, at 11:59 p.m. EST, and I'll announce the winner later that week.

The contest is over! Congratulations to Lisa Sharp. E-mail your mailing address to me at goinggreenmama at gmail so that you can collect your prize.

Thanks to all of you who entered and provided feedback on the site.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Writer wrap-up for the weekend

I've had a very busy last few weeks, and there are so many great posts on the Web that I hadn't had the opportunity to share with others.

As I'm off enjoying a sorely needed three-day weekend, here are some other interesting writers to share:

And, on the lighter side, if you need something for that cookout this weekend, Going Local shares some great summertime recipes, including Fire & Ice Chicken Wings, Miniature Sour Cherry Crumbles.

Have a happy - and safe - Fourth of July!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A gift for gardening

A dear friend of mine is blessed with a fabulous gift for gardening, one that she doesn't give herself enough credit for. Last Labor Day weekend, she surprised me - on her vacation, no less - by planting a small garden of native flowers beneath my living room window. It looks fabulous this summer.

Yesterday, I asked her for suggestions about my edible landscaping dilemna, and at the end of her day, she had plans in place for me!

She writes:

You can do both. (He) can have his raised beds, and you can have your more
traditional landscaping. It is not as hard to mix formal and informal as you might think. The key is to plan your hardscaping so that you will never have to move it. It is because your yard is small that going vertical will not only create added space, but will also help you delineate certain areas, e.g., the patio is a good place for the formal raised beds because you will need easy access to the herbs and vegetables. Raised beds also provide the opportunity for built-in seating. Who doesn’t like to brush their hand over mint or oregano just to sit there and breathe in the scent, or snip a few mint leaves to crush in their lemonade while dining al fresco? Creating a lawn of edible ground cover between inset flagstones is another formal touch. Crushable thyme thrives the more you step on it so a small play lawn of the stuff is perfect for little people who are constantly on the move.

Orient all structures and plantings toward the south which is the direction of the sun. Trees like cherry, apple, peach and plum should be planted at the back of the garden. Their shade will fall to the north away from the garden in the summer, and they will act as a windbreak for the garden during winter. Leave room around the house for your deck, but build your raised beds into it. Two levels with the tallest on the
northern edge and the shortest at bench seat height. That way, every 4 feet you can put down two feet of boards for a seat. Your deck will have built in seating on the planters, and you will have a raised work surface when you are gardening.
So there. Edible landscaping designs for the lot-limited in less than a day! Now, I just need to get to work...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Planning edible landscaping no easy task

RIP the tree. It finally blew into two during the latest windstorm. Which means I'm forced to seriously start planning an edible garden.

The problems?
  • We're starting from scratch.
  • We live on a small plot of land to boot.
  • We're at the mercy of the home association, which says such things as gardens need to have goofy 1' fences around them or other ways to show you just don't have dirt and weeds growing there.
So we're trying to figure this edible landscaping out. I've started the hunt, online at least, for fruit trees, and found that the Arbor Day Foundation will ship them in late fall. It's a start; however, I need a tree now for my landscaping requirements. So I'm on the prowl.

My husband and I are suffering from a serious difference of opinion on how to carry out edible landscaping.

My husband prefers the more traditional rectangular gardens, housed within a raised bed.

My feeling it should actually look like, you know, landscaping. Our yards are small enough without the sense that you're being boxed in with more raised beds. (Of course, I also realize how long it took to pull off the raised beds the last time we built them!)

I saw these examples and thought they would be fabulous starting points (can't remember the source, unfortunately.)

What would you do? If you had a postage-stamp lot and small children, how would you make the best of all worlds?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Possibly the coolest green bag ever

Reusable shopping bags are everywhere these days. It seems like every store is trying to make a buck with bags with their branding on it.

Generally, I try to avoid paying for other people's advertising, but I have really become interested in using reusable grocery bags as part of my daily living.

I recently found my exception to the rule. Trader Joe's offers fun surfer-themed reusable grocery bags that I just had to snatch up! And for only $1.

The only downside is that these bags take more space than the cloth ones I've found at the local grocery stores, and they don't compact as well. But they are fun and eye-catching, and remembering they're there is the first step to using them and eliminating just a few plastic bags.

Too much stuff!

Try as you might, kids still get swamped with toys at every major life event. And while we were able to curb some of it this year, we're still swamped with lots and lots of packaging.

This one was the worst offender. It's a stationery set techincally, but offered stamps and stickers that would appeal to a budding artist who loves mommy's scrapbook supplies.

This is the amount of packaging it came in. It's about a 13x2x2 package, complete with clear plastic nestling its contents.

And these are the contents! Five notecard-sized pieces of paper, a few stamps, two tiny sheets of stickers, and a few other assorted items.

I'm not complaining about the contents because the recipient was thrilled; I just think the package is a waste!

Beating bad habits, revisited

I have a problem. A big problem. And it comes in 44-oz. containers.

Diet Coke is my problem. I get that. I realize that. But I am trying to take steps to someday recover from my craziness. I liken it to a smoker in a bar - it's one part habit, one part pure addiction to caffeine.

I made the mistake of trying to make big cutbacks last month. The idea was that I'd cut back on my cans from my four-a-day habit. It didn't go so well. In fact, two, count them, two days I was able to only drink three. In fact, several days, my consumption just was worse than ever.

The other day, Chile asked if others were up for this again. I think I am. I'm still unsure how to make that change and cut back, but I'm determined to do something. So here's my three-step plan for small changes for the month of July, for those of you who have stopped laughing uncontrollably at the idea of me cutting out sodas:
  1. I will keep a large glass for water in the office and try to keep that filled.
  2. Much like I piggyback errands, I am going to make a list of tasks I need to do on the computer as to avoid the constant turning on and off of it all day.
  3. I plan to seriously watch my plastic bag intake. I have reusable bags, but occasionally I forget to have them on hand. So I'm going to have to duct tape them to myself or something! Apparently storing them behind the car seat just isn't quite clear enough for me.