Thursday, May 31, 2007

More Eco-Friendly Suggestions for Your Greenspaces

Coincidentally two of my daily reads have come up with some excellent suggestions for making your backyard (or balcony or little patch of community garden) a more eco-friendly place.

First, I only happened to look down to see who wrote the lovely article in Whole Life Times entitled "Love the Landscape, Lose the Lawn: Eco-Friendly Ideas for Your Yard" and lo! it was our very own Virginian, Jenny Rough. She offers up five steps to a greener yard (and by the way, she writes, the average American household allots 60 percent of the total water use to lawn-care) which include going native (plants), eating your estate (turn your grass into vegetable gardens), keeping the rain (coincidentally, my husband has just done what Jenny suggests. We have kept a patch of grass close to our storm drain unmowed to collect runoff), swapping your shingles (rooftop gardens), and giving a hoot (okay, if you don't know what that refers to you just didn't grow up in the 70s). She also provides some great sites for more browsing. Great job, Jenny and congratulations.

Moving right along, the wonderful SusieJ as posted a tip for keeping those grody rose diseases from decimating your crop (Is that how you spell grody? Am I dating myself? Calling all Valley Girls! Like, Omigod, when was the last time you thought about Valley Girls?) The Magic of Chives. Who knew! Thanks for the suggestion, SusieJ. We ( husband) is going to have to try that. We wouldn't want anything taking over this beautiful thing...

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Greeness of Gardens

There is something about a garden - English gardens, schoolyard gardens, sunflowers-in-an-abandoned-lot gardens, balcony gardens, windowsill gardens - that makes you slow down, lets you breathe in and out, manages to find a way to challenge all your senses. They can also be a lot of work and my husband has created a number of beautiful gardens on our own quarter acre. My Aunt Miriam was a true garden-clubber and she was always very generous with advice and clippings. She and Green Nana found much to talk about. I regret that she died before I could really appreciate her gift for green. She was never a soldier in the miltary sense, but her husband, my Uncle Paul, was, serving in the Pacific during World War II. So today on Memorial Day I think it is appropriate to remember both of them. Here are some pictures for you, Aunt Miriam. I know you would enjoy them.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Building a Better Minivan - The Hybrid Affair

Okay, minivan fans. Diane at Big Green Purse has posted a nice summary about Toyota's attempt to build the perfect hybrid minivan, and she notes, there is a petition to be May 28th! So if you would like Toyota to bring the minivan to the United States instead of sending it to the big test drive in the sky, let know, by signing The Union of Concerned Scientists petition at their Hybrid Center website.

Friday, May 25, 2007

What's My Line - The Continental Version

Just hung my laundry for the day and though it is pretty seeing my floral sheets in the sunshine, somehow even underwear look better when they're line drying in...Venice.

Here is a beautiful image of laundry drying in Venice, used with permission of the photographer, Green Gramps.

Holly Pedlosky has some lovely images of Venetian laundry. Grazie, Holly!

Have you captured any line drying? Venice or otherwise? I'd love to see them and I will post them here.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

We Interrupt This Blog

for a special announcement.

Today I received my electric bill in the mail.

My electric bill was $22.00 lower than last month, and we used the least amount of kWhs since October 2006.

If that's not inspiration enough to bow down to my CFLs and line dry 50% of my laundry, I don't know what is...

Think of all the fair trade lattes I can buy with that money!!

We now return to our regularly schedule blog, already in progress.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My GreeMeme

If you're the bloggy blog type, you know all about memes - maybe too much, in fact. In any case, I have been tagged by one of the very first bloggers I've ever read on a regular, some might say, addictive basis. I have described her blog as light and airy and while Ms. Mary has her ups and downs like us all, she sure does know how to appreciate the little things in life. Thank you, Mary.

So, in an attempt to fulfill both my obligation to the meme and the theme of my blog, here goes:

Eight Random Facts About Me (The Green Edition)

Sometimes at work, when the newspapers come in plastic bags and the cabinet where we keep the plastic bags are positively overflowing, I just throw the plastic bags in the trash

I realize that while I do take long showers, as a mom I rarely take showers, so I think it all evens out.

My husband is about 1000% more green than I am; in fact, he does most of the gardening, landscaping, and composting. I just take the pictures of it and blog about it.

I am reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and I love it. I am just up to the asparagus part.

I recently reconnected (love Google) with a friend I knew from my time in Seattle and who was Green before it was a la mode. I hope to be even more inspired by her and her connection with nature.

When I was in Harris Teeter the other day, I was for a moment paralyzed by all of the choices. I couldn't remember what I was supposed to buy and what I wasn't. I bought Uncle Ben rice in individual boxes. I don't think being paralyzed by Green is what nature intended. I need to learn to do the best I can.

Tuesday night I smoked several cigarettes while out with a friend. The Anti-Green.

My children are eating the strawberries in our garden just as fast as the strawberries are turning red. Sprout kept saying, "MMMmmmmmmmm." as she ate them. I guess that's not really a random fact about me, but can I say that that made me feel incredibly happy?

I'm new to this blogging business, so now I am supposed to "tag" eight other bloggers (Eight!). I don't think I know eight other bloggers, so here are five...if you don't do this kinda thing, no worries. It won't bring you bad luck to break the chain.

SusieJ - A beautiful writer with five men in her life.
Jenny Rough - A transplanted CA-er living the freelancer life in Virginia
Mom Go Green - My inspiration for all blogs Green
Mindful Momma - Another inspirational Greenie Mom
Lots and Lots of Nonsense - Always upbeat although she is very, very tired right now.

Tomorrow...What's My Line, from Venice.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Love My MOM

Before I go any further...look what arrived in the mail today:

Thank you SusieJ! Your stationary is adorable!

But, no, SusieJ is not my let me continue.

Here's What's My Line for today:

The sun is so strong I can even double items up and they still get dry in about twenty minutes.

But, What's My Line isn't mom-related either.

Today I am working a split shift, so on my way home I stopped by someplace that I've been dying to try for some time. My Organic Market, or MOM. I love MOM. It has a little bit more of a co-op feel than Whole Foods - more of a PCC feel to it, which I used to frequent rarely, if ever, when I lived in Seattle. Ah, wasted opportunities!

I purchased organic milk which was, of course, about $1.50 cheaper than my "conventional" grocery store, some non-trans-fat chips for the kiddos and the hubby (I'm not kidding myself; junk food is junk food, but hey, I'm trying, remember), some yummy looking frozen vegetable spring rolls, and an adorable "energy bar" called the Bumble Bar. Yes, I'm a sucker for packaging so you got me Bumble Bar, Inc. It resembled one of those things you put out for the birds, what with all the sesame seeds, but it was yummy, what with all the brown rice syrup and evaporated cane juice.

Best of all, I've added to my collection of .99 resusable bags! I'm about ready to give up the plastic or paper for good, although they do have their uses which I will elaborate on when you're not eating lunch.

Have a green day, everyone, and thanks for visiting!

Monday, May 21, 2007

You Say It's Your Birthday!

I have two children, each six months apart (born in different years...two children born six months apart would be impossible. Wouldn't it? Hold on...). So that means every six months I'm hosting a birthday party. For Sprout's upcoming fete in August, I am planning on throwing a little bit of green into the mix.

First, Green Nana came up with a great suggestion - on the invitation include "Regifted Gifts Only Please". I know that I have at least a half a dozen toys, new and used, that would be perfectly acceptable regifts. That being said, I suppose there is no need to give (or receive) toys at all. In celebration of their daughter's adoption, one of our friends suggested buying a cow in her honor (or a bee for that matter). In keeping with their wishes, my co-workers and I decided to purchase a number of $10 mosquito bed nets. $10 seems like a small price to pay to prevent the spread of malaria, the number one killer of children in Africa.

For Pip's birthday last March, I purchased compostable cups made from corn, had each child put flower stickers on the cups (not so compostable), invited them to bring their cup over to the "dirt station" (my husband, with a bag of dirt), asked them to select their choice of seed (sunflower, pumpkin or cucumber), smushed it down, and voila, they each had their own seedling for the summer (pumpkins germinated most successfully, by the way). It was a great outdoor activity and helped them understand that the food they eat and flowers they enjoy start from seeds they can easily plant themselves.

The GreenGuide has some suggestions for hosting eco-friendly birthday parties written by Catherine Zandonella:

"Build your party around a kid-friendly theme such as pupppies, zoo animals, or dinosaurs." The idea here is to provide kids with an opportunity to have fun (read: seeing puppies at a shelter) with the opportunity to give back (read: collecting toys and leashes for the animals)

"Check your local fire station to see if they give tours or host parties." The idea here is that volunteer firefighters appreciate the recognition and any donations to the station. In return, party attendees get a cool venue where they can learn about a hot career.

"Let your child choose the theme." It's no suprise to many of you moms out there that children can be incredibly unselfish and like nothing more than to feel important by helping someone out (hence the five hour sweeping of the kitchen floor or the picking out my clothes for work, God bless 'em). So don't guffaw at parties where children bring items to donate instead of toys for the host.

"Hold your party at a local farm, nature center or a city park to help children learn about caring for the environment." This is one of my personal favorites. Nature is free, and although you may need to pay to "rent" the space, the money goes directly to the upkeep of these fabulous community resources.

And two of the easiest ways to go green:

"For your little ones, ages 1 to 2, suggest that guests bring a gently used toy from home instead of buying a new one." I say this tip works for older kids, too.

"Ditch the traditional 'goody bag' full of candy and throw-away plastic toys for an item that the kids make themselves, such as a puppet or princess hat..." or a pumpkin seed in a compostable cup?

After Posting Postscript: I think Mindful Mamma should be called Read Your Mindful Momma. Look at her fabulous post on an actual, real live Green Birthday party!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Lots of Good Green

Yowser! There's tons of good green stuff being posted by fellow green bloggers, so allow me to patch you through. One ringie-dingie..

Funny, Mom Go Green and Mindful Momma are both having the same thoughts about the "little things" that we are doing in an attempt to live a greener life. Like myself, we are just doing the best we can a little bit at a time. I think that is the best way to go, actually. Sometimes when you get too ambitious you give up because it just seems too overwhelming.

Also, Mindful Momma attended her local Green Festival, and although she was suffering from attention deficient disorder due to the kiddies (been there, felt that), she did give it a green thumbs up. I'm so looking forward to our area's Green Festival in October.

Heather at EnviroMom posted about another way to recycle those heading-for-the-dustbin books! Adorable!

Great postings today, fellow greenies!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Martha, Martha, Martha!

If Martha can vermi-compost, you can vermi-compost. And to the rest of you - that's a worm composting system.

Visit Martha's video clip and get some helpful hints on how to make a worm bin out of a plastic storage container. For further reading she recommends the classic: How to Eat Fried Worms, er, I mean Worms Eat My Garbage, written by the late Mary Appelhof.

So my husband and I are about to embark on our vermi-composting with new verve-vi-composting. So, like, anyone know where we can get our hands on two thousand worms?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Quickie

Green Mama is here visiting so just a quick couple of tidbits before I hit the hay.

It's been a beautiful day here in the Mid-Atlantic states - got two loads of laundry dried on the line.

If you are from Boston, please report back to me on this new resource brought to my attention by the aforementioned Green Mama...

"NEXUS is a new, one-of-a-kind resource center for sustainable design and green building innovation. Located in downtown Boston, NEXUS (pursuing LEED-CI) includes over 6,000 square feet of product and educational showrooms, a print and online samples and resource library and networking/event space. The center is staffed by green building experts and LEED accredited professionals. It is open to building owners, architects, engineers, designers, developers and the general public."

'Nuf said on that.

In other news which count and being green-related because I am Green With Envy...what if you were a blogger invited to the set of Julia's show? And then your face was on the cover of the WSJ?

BTW, did you know that Julia was in the 2nd Annual Green issue of Vanity Fair in which her efforts to raise money for the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Waterkeeper Alliance, and the Trust for Public Land were briefly mentioned? And her makeup mirror is lit by N:Vision bulbs.

Howz that for keepin' it green?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Green Recap

So it has been almost a month since I started this blog to chronicle my attempts at going green. So, where have we been, what have we done, and more importantly, where the frick are we going?

We have very successfully implemented our CFL plan. This was probably the easiest step we took in our quest for the green. We replaced seven incandescent bulbs with seven n:vision CFLs; they take a few seconds to "warm up" but once they do they seem to be brighter than our old incandescents and there's none of the flickering I was concerned about. I'll let you know if I see any change in our electric bill, especially since I am using my dryer much less frequently.

While at Whole Foods the other day, I picked up a bunch of organic bananas from Dole and taking a tip from mom go green, I quickly looked to see how far these bananas had come. For having traveling all the way from Colombia, these bananas don't look half bad. But from the "where the frick are we going" category, an excellent post by SusieJ makes me wonder if I should even be bothering with things like organic bananas. What is worth paying organic for and what is not? A topic to explore in the near future and one on which I would love to hear your opinions.

I am still excited about the DC Green Festival. Will there be a contingent of green bloggers there? :)

In the debit column, The Worm Bin is Dead. Long Live the Worm Bin. There were maggots and flies and just typing that makes me, as Chris says, throw up a little bit into my mouth. You'd think as a librarian I would have done some RESEARCH into how to properly construct a worm bin, but no. Let the aforementioned vermin be a lesson to me; in the meantime, back to the drawing board. I have not done a thing about my Junk(mail) in the Trunk, and I would say I have only successfully used my reusable mug 50% of the time. Speaking of coffee mugs, I am honored to have won SusieJ's recent contest on diner lingo and earned myself a gift card to Starbucks. This has got me and my caffeine addiction wondering: is Starbucks the evil empire when it comes to the green machine? Can I be green and a Starbucks devotee? To quote a frog "It's not that easy being green." when it comes to the caffeine conundrum. I also want to address my car-leaking-brake-fluid-admission because this is really quite inexcusable. My car is a 1995 with 150,000 miles on it and the replacement part (the something something brake something something) is proving quite difficult to find. My trusty mechanic is working on it, so I promise, this is definitely on my urgent-flag-to-take-care of list.

Until we green again,

Gift of Green Mom

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Original Green Mom

My mom has no fingernails. I mean, she has fingernails, but she doesn't have long, manicured nails with fresh paint on them every week. My mom's hands seem to be too busy for that - she likes to get down in the dirt.

Many of the green things that grow around my house are there because of my mom. The lungwort, the tulips, the peony tree. When she visits she hangs out the towels on the line and folds them up too.

The food that she cooks comes from fresh ingredients - her famous meatballs (you may have met a few of them on the people mover at Dulles airport...long story), her lasagna, even her simple spaghetti ("I loved spaghetti." will be carved on her gravestone, I'm sure.), her yummy green salads.

My mother is addicted to many things: clothes shoppping for her grandchildren, Mallomars, hot fudge sundaes, walks to the corner store to pick up the paper, the internet, lunches with her friend at Legal Seafood, Keri hand lotion, cute shoes, movies with my Dad, going up to the shore, Walden Pond, a small island in Maine, anything "Made in Italy", snorkeling, handbags, tall glasses of water, making pancakes, cream cheese icing, and cheap flights on Jet Blue.

When I was waiting for my children to be born she called me every day, came and fed me, cheered me up when I was down, and best of all answered the phone when I called to tell her that her grandson was finally here. She'll even change a diaper.

If I were there with you today, Mom, we'd go and get manicures together. Not because we need them, but because even hard working hands need a little TLC every once and a while. Thank you for giving me the original "gift of green" and to every mother today I say to you what my Mom always says to me: "Treat yourself good."

I love you, Mom. Have a great day!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Friday Greenings

The other day I had several hours to myself and I spent them at a local garden. It was a beautiful morning. I walked along the brick pathways, stopping to smell the roses (lilacs, actually). Poking around the "kitchen garden", I saw spindly asparagus, some type of cabbage that had already bolted, and a wonderful teepee made of bamboo and string with snowpea tendrils already starting their climb upwards. There were simple but beautiful structures made to accomodate climbing beans - just old bicycle wheels afixed to the top of posts, with twine forming the supports. I passed people as they walked the grounds for exercise, and everyone said hello. Sitting down on a warm, worn wood bench, I read my book for a while, listening to the small birds chirping and warbling just above my head in a bird house that was actually fashioned to look more like a mansion. Every now and again I would look up, at the sky, its blueness, feeling the sun on my face. I have not been one to observe, notice, or take part in nature for a long, long, long time. It really is restorative. It is also free. It cannot be taken away, lost, is never too expensive, it cannot be broken, you can find it any where and every where. On my way out, I passed through the children's garden, past a huge caterpillar made from recycled materials and saw a fig tree just covered in tiny new fruits. There were more fruits than leaves! I returned to the plant shop and chose my own fig tree, one with just three leaves and barely six inches tall. Like me, it will enjoy the full sun and mild winters. Time to go hang out the clothes...


Thursday, May 10, 2007

It's a...Vegetable!

The Strep has returned - this time Sprout has it. Seeing as we are supposed to throw away all toothbrushes 24 hours after diagnosis, I'd better look into my green options - we're about to enter the new growth toothbrush forest at this point.

I must tell you that my neighbors and I got in!! No, not to a popular pre-school, not to summer session swim classes for the tots, not even to the park with no parking! We have beaten the odds and now "own" a share of Community Supported Agriculture!

Who knew that shares were hotter really hot! But we are proud to announce that we will be getting a weekly delivery (well, we pick it up, but you get the idea) of fresh vegetables and assorted sundries from Even' Star Organic Farms! Isn't she adorable!

Are you looking to buy into a share too? These's still time (well, maybe!). For more information on CSAs and other organic foods at a place near you, visit LocalHarvest and search by zip code.

I can hardly wait to show your our first delivery.

Speaking of food, SusieJ has a fun way to test your knowledge of diner lingo over at her site. I failed miserably. See what you can do, with legs.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Current Events

I am very excited about the upcoming Green Festival in my area. I was disappointed with the lack of activities for DCGreenWeek in April and so it is with baited breath (really...I haven't brushed my teeth yet today) that I wait for Washington, DC Green Festival, October 6th and 7th.

What does it promise? "Tasty food, great music, and 300 green businesses as well as films, workshops, yoga and other types of movement class. We also have a packed program of inspiring speakers.

GreenDC Week is a city-wide, collaborative effort to educate the people who live, work, or learn in the District of Columbia about energy and environmental sustainability. People will discover simple yet effective actions to reduce energy consumption and climate change emissions, to improve the quality of our air, water, and land, and to utilize green building principles."

This will be my first attendance at a Green Festival. Have you been to one in your region? Was it all you ever dreamed of and more?

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

What's my line?

First, I digress.

If you want to see a beautiful post, go no further than here. Talk about the ability to capture a time and place.

Getting back to business. My mom made an observation the other day - "All this talk about green," she said, "and no one uses clothes lines anymore."

I have a clothes line, but I rarely use it. Why? Dunno. The crunchy clothes? My property value? Maybe, but sunshine sterilizes, saves you money, saves energy, and makes your sheets and pillowcases smell like light. So I have rededicated myself to the clothes line. Over the weekend I hung towels, dishclothes, jeans, and heavy workshirts. They dried lickity-split.

How's your clothes line doing? Drop me a line.

Monday, May 7, 2007

The Worms Crawl In...

The other day, while my husband was home with Pip and his strep throat, they put together a very snazzy Worm Bin.

First my husband took three empty Tidy Cat litter bins (why was he saving them? who knows. this is the beauty of my husband) and drilled holes along the bottom of each. Then he simply nested them inside of one another. The first image is the Worm Bin fully assembled. The second bin catches the worm poops and the third bin catches the worm juice which is used for watering plants and such. The final image is of our worm bin in action. We keep it right outside our kitchen door where it is shady all day long. Show me your worm bin. Yeah, baby!

The actual design of the Worm Bin will probably need some tweaking and if you see something VERY VERY wrong with our worm bin (like, " are your worms *breathing?*") please let us know. We want to create life, not destroy it.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Roughly Speaking: Cute Cute Cute

Not quite sure how this "create a link to this post" thing works...seems slightly plagiaristic, but Jenny Rough has a post up on her blog about adorable little bags made from books. Now as a librarian, I must admit that this seems slightly sacrilegious, but I suppose that that there are worse fates in life for a book than being recycled and taken on shopping trips or girls' night out. You make the call: Roughly Speaking: Cute Cute Cute.

Interested in making your own worm bin? My husband has done it - pictures and instructions to follow.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Junk(mail) in the Trunk

And Amoxicillin said "Get Thee Out of This House, Strep Throat" and Lo! It Was Done.

But I digress.

Just the other day, my Mom mentioned that after visiting my grandmother in her assisted living home, she was concerned about all the mail "solicitations" that my grandmother was receiving. Unfortunately, my grandmother is a very generous person, and I say unfortunately in this case, because she is replying to these requests with donations, albeit small ones, but donations nonetheless run on sentence. It made me realize that junk mail is not only wasteful, but in some cases, it can be downright dangerous! Here are some suggestions, Mom et al., for how to get yourself...or someone you love, off those mailing lists.

One organization that can help you manage all that junk in your trunk is 41Pounds, so called because that is the average amount of junkmail that the average adult received each year. I am willing to guess it's more - those pre-approved credit cards are heavy! So what does 41Pounds do? The can help eliminate between 80 to 95% of all your junkmail by contacting the direct marketers who send it to you on your behalf!

The catch: well, there really isn't a "catch" but this service costs - $41 for five years, which seems a small price to pay for both green and peace of mind. Also, 41Pounds does not stop mailings from non-profits, so while this may not protect Grandma from The Humane Society, it will protect her from those credit-card company offers that often land in the trash for others to find and abuse (I know, I'm getting all X-Files on you).

If you have time to do a bit of legwork on your own behalf, Junkbusters provides some templates for getting rid of junkmail the old fashioned BURN it. Just kidding. You send letters to direct marketers telling them to remove your name from your mailing list and not to share your name with others. And while we are on the subject...why not try to eliminate junkmail from the start? When you order something, online or from a catalog, there is usually an opt-out option (Op-out option? What does the opt in opt-out stand for? Anyone?) asking that they do not share (sell or rent is more like it) your name with other vendors. Also, love your Pottery Barn catalog? No need to go cold turkey - but places like PB will often take you off their catalog-every-time-they-make-a-change-to-their-Tahiti-collection to a catalog once a year or once per season.

I'm going to tell my junk mail to take a hike...I'll let you know how it goes.

Yesterday: One coffee in own cup/one softdrink in evil cup
Today: One coffee in own cup

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Snug as a Bug

Good day. My house has strep throat, so I am able to blog mid-day. We now return to our regularly scheduled posting.

We own a small 1950s Cape Cod with two bedrooms on the first floor, a combined dining/living room, a small kitchen, two full baths, and one bedroom in a dormered second floor. Our goal is a September 2008 groundbreaking for a modest addition: adding on to the side of the house to create an expanded kitchen and dining room, family room, and the addition of two small bedrooms for Pip and Sprout above. With all the the green buzz, my's call him...Heath...I'll be Heather! Oh, I crack myself up...can't help but be excited about incorporating as much green as we where do I start...with the important things: rugs.

I am so shallow.

We need a combination of hearty, due to our two small children, and environmentally friendly, also due to our two small children. But can the twain meet? Before all this hullaballo I was going to Stainmaster our entire house and call it a day. Now that's not as acceptable to me. So, with an eye to the future, I've begun my quest for the perfect rugs for the dining room and the family room. I welcome your suggestions and experiences.