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Friday, November 28, 2008

We are family.

The holidays are here and that means spending time with family. Some you like, some you don't. But, they are all still family. How big is your family? Mine is HUGE! Just how huge? Pop on over to my Friday post at the Green Phone Booth and you'll get the idea.


Friday, November 21, 2008

I propose a toast.

Raise your glass mug, Klean Kanteen, SIGG, mason jar, what have you and toast good times connecting with new friends discussing sustainable issues over Green Drinks. Never drink alone again. Read more in my Friday post at the Green Phone Booth.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thrifty Green Thursday - Launching Pad

Ahh, adolescence. That wonderful time when your face resembles your favorite food, boys no longer have cooties, and girls experience that rite of passage, menarche.

My 12 year old step-daughter walked into womanhood this summer. Being the terrible procrastinators that we are, we were unprepared for the event. A late night run to the local grocery store and a myriad of choices Oy!, none of which I have used since I was 12, took care of the problem at hand. The next day when we, I, was thinking clearer we logged on to Lunapads to discuss her options. Disposables had been covered at school, but she had no idea there were alternatives. We discussed the pros and cons of each and I left it up to her.

Bucking the norm, she chose to go the reusable route. I was surprised, but gleeful. Not even I had ventured into that territory. I started using the Diva cup a year ago, but was still using disposable pantyliners as a backup. Who is teaching who here? Having no personal experience to base her decision on, she went with economics. Although I think the leopard print had something to do with it. Putting aside all societal perspectives going green just makes sense. It seemed a pretty easy decision for her. "I can buy these and use them over and over, or buy these and buy them over and over?" Ahhh... Yep.
So we ordered a mini pad and a few liners to get her started. The total came to $34.97 with shipping. Not exactly a small price for 5 liners and 1 pad, but will ultimately save money in the end. She has been using them for several months now while with us during the week and disposables while at her mother's house on the weekends. After experiencing both options she has decided to go reusable all the way. Stating, "they feel better."

Since participating in Rob's Make Do an Mend Challenge and the simplicity of their design we thought a little DIY was in order. She found purple flannel fabric and matching thread she liked. Total for the half yard of fabric and thread was $4.32. We used one of her Lunapad liners as a template and cut out a few pieces.

  • Overcast around a single piece for a pantyliner.
  • Pin two pieces together, sew a straight stitch down the center, and overcast the edge for light days.
  • Using an old towel, cut an inner lining piece. Cut two pieces of fleece slightly larger (1/4 inch or so) than your inner liner. Pin inner liner to one piece. Sew zig-zag down center and around perimeter of inner liner. Pin second piece of flannel on top of first. The inner liner (towel piece) should be face down. Sew straight stitch around edge of inner liner leaving a two inch opening on a straight side. Trim excess flannel and turn right side out through opening. Sew two straight stitches on either side of center zig-zag. This will prevent shifting. Hand stitch opening shut. This would be for heavy days.

We have not even used half of the fabric and already have nine pads of varied thickness and design. Some with wings some without, some short some long, some fasten some do not. Add a waterproof layer of nylon if you like. Use scrap fabric you have, old flannel shirts, whatever. You can totally customize them! Ask Pauline has a great tutorial and free pattern to make your own. The Cloth Pad List is a great resource for finding every brand, size, shape there is. Also lists tutorials and free patterns available.

Before buying the fabric we walked past a pack of disposable pads in Target. They were nearly $9.00 for 32. When we got home she started doing the math. According to a 12 year old:

21 pads per month x 12 months = 252 pads per year x 33 years (she's assuming she doesn't have to pay for them until she's 18 & the average age of menopause is 51) = 8,316 pads divided by 32 (the number in the package she saw) = 260 boxes she would have to buy x $9.00 (the cost of the pack she saw) = $2,340.00 for disposable.

33 years divided by 5 (the number of years Lunapads states their pads last) = 7 (she rounds) times she would have to make new pads x $4.32 (the cost of fabric and thread) = $30.00 for reusable. (the cost of laundry doesn't even cross her 12 year old mind!)

$2,340.00 - $30.00 = $2,310.00 she saves! "That could feed a lot of cats!" HA!

She certainly gets the economic benefit of reusable pads, but also understands their environmental impact, too. Way less waste and no plastic. It has served as a great life lesson and a launching pad for her to think outside the norm for common sense solutions for the rest of her life.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Score one for the planet.

Seems like just yesterday, okay Friday, I was saying that one voice can make a difference. Well today one of those voices announced some very big news. Beth Terry and the Take Back The Filter campaign have scored a huge eco-victory for all of us.

From the official press release:

The Clorox Company News Release

Brita® and Preserve® Announce Filter Recycling Program

OAKLAND, Calif., Nov. 18, 2008 – The new year will bring renewed life for used Brita® pitcher filters, which will be collected and recycled into items such as toothbrushes, cups and cutting boards.

Beginning in early January 2009, consumers can recycle Brita water pitcher filters through a program with Preserve®, the leading maker of 100 percent recycled household consumer goods. Preserve offers an environmentally friendly recycling infrastructure for No. 5 polypropylene plastic, a primary material in Brita pitcher filters, through its Gimme 5 recycling and reuse program.

Preserve will collect the filters to use in its line of eco-friendly, 100 percent recyclable personal care, tableware and kitchen products. Preserve products made in part from Brita filters will be available at leading retailers, allowing consumers to purchase new sustainable products they helped create. more...
For more details visit today's post at Take Back The Filter.

Hats off to Beth, everyone who signed the petition, sent in their filters, and worked on the campaign. As a member of the Plastic-free Posse, we salute you!

Monday, November 17, 2008

This land is our land?

When I think of former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack being at the top of the list of candidates for President-Elect Obama to appoint as Secretary of Agriculture the song The Monsanto Rag by the band Synister Dane and the Kickapoo Disco Cosmonuts comes to mind.

The Monsanto Rag

(Parody of “I Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag”, by Country Joe McDonald, Alkatraz Corner Music Co.)
Well, come on all of you farmin’ folks
Ole Monsanto’s a blowin’ smoke
They got genetic freaks and corporate greed
You can spray anything but you can’t save seed
They’re changin’ Mother Nature’s rules
There’s new genes in the pool

And it’s one, two, three, what are we sprayin’ for?
Don’t ask me I don’t give a damn, it’s a chemical promise land.
And it’s five, six, seven, get ready to terminate
Ain’t no time to wonder why, you can kiss your farm good-bye.

Well, come on farmers get off your ass
Roundup Ready is here is last.
Sign away your privacy,
When you buy into technology.
Don’t ya be the last fool on the block
To grow genuine Frankenstein crops.

And it’s one, two, three, what are we sprayin’ for?
Don’t ask me I don’t give a damn, it’s a chemical promise land.
And it’s five, six, seven, get ready to terminate
Ain’t no time to wonder why, you can kiss your farm good-bye.

So, come on scientists, don’t go slow.
This world needs GMO’s.
There’s plenty good money to be made,
Choppin’ those genes, with the tools of the trade
Ya know were not God, yeah we’re throwin’ the dice
That’s what happens when you cut and splice.

And it’s one, two, three, what are we sprayin’ for?
Don’t ask me I don’t give a damn, it’s a chemical promise land.
And it’s five, six, seven, get ready to terminate
Ain’t no time to wonder why, you can kiss your farm good-bye.

Now, come on Mothers throughout the land,
Put your faith in Monsanto’s hands.
Now, come on Fathers don’t hesitate
To count your sperm… IT’S NOT THAT GREAT
It’s alright you can trust in me,
Remember DDT.

And it’s one, two, three, what are we sprayin’ for?
Don’t ask me I don’t give a damn, it’s a chemical promise land.
And it’s five, six, seven, get ready to terminate
Ain’t no time to wonder why, you can kiss your farm good-bye. (repeat)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Let the voice in your head out.

Sometimes change begins with one voice. Is it yours?
Find out in my post at the Green Phone Booth.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Are you loco?

This month's APLS carnival is all about buying local. I pondered how I could write an intelligent post on all the reasons why you should by local (less fuel miles, supporting small business, creating community, lower environmental impact) without it being a lie. Sure all those reasons are true, but it is a life I have yet to live. So instead of preaching to the choir, I decided to take this opportunity to learn where the food in my cupboards comes from - besides the grocery store.

Some products were easily identified. Our Earthbound Farms organic potatoes state they are a product of Canada. As does our Spectrum canola oil. Our Eddie's pasta comes from Italy. I live in Wisconsin so you better bet my cheese is from my home state. Nearly all our dairy is from Wisconsin, not necessarily within 100 miles from my home, but not far out of that range. Our milk comes from farms ranging from southwest Wisconsin to Iowa. Other products took visits to websites and phone calls to find their true origin.

Twice a week we have meatless meals, usually consisting of pasta. I buy all our pasta in bulk from Amazon. One delivery every six months. I know it has to travel a ways, but it only comes twice a year all at once. As opposed to many trips to the grocery store. With all that pasta in the house we use a fair amount of pasta sauce. Dei Fratelli, which apparently comes from Ohio. I had to look on their website for this information.

Another thing we use a lot of is broth. I buy Swanson organic chicken and organic beef broth. Neither the box nor website disclosed where it originated. A phone call to customer service and a friendly Q&A with the rep divulged the code printed on the box: GF - Utah, SF - Stuben Foods, 27 - Minnesota, EST - Utah meat plant. Where they acquired the ingredients to make the broth still eludes me. So after decoding my broth boxes I learned that both my chicken and beef broths were packaged in Utah.

Our chicken and Sparboe eggs come from some 250 farms around Wisconsin and Minnesota. Gold'n Plump is a huge chicken processing company in these two states. Thousands of chickens are raised enclosed in huge barns on family farms. The Chitlins other parents being one of them. It is local-ish, but I know I can do better.

King Arthur flour I use to bake our bread is based in Vermont, but I am unsure of where the wheat they mill comes from. Hubby's Stonyfield yogurt is also Northeast based. Our frozen veggies come from the West coast. Our honey and apples are local. Our bananas, sugar, and salt are anything but. I am absolutely clueless where (and how) our beef and pork are raised.

Now that I have a better understanding where everything is traveling from it is time to source alternatives that fit my family. This fall I discovered one of the vendors at my farmer's market raises free-range chickens and sells eggs. He also has some produce available throughout the winter. Every week he emails a list of available products and delivers to a pick up spot on Fridays. Yea!

A few clicks on Sustainable Table and I was able to find a local listing of farmer's markets, CSA's, stores, farmers, and organizations in my area. Local Harvest is another website to find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area. Dairy was easy for me since I reside in the dairy state, but if you are looking for local dairy products check out the rBGH-free dairy map. Eat Wild is a resource I used to find local grass fed meat.

My food co-op features local products and I even noticed local foods popping up in the supermarkets. A scenic detour on the way to drop the chitlins off at their mother's unearthed an organic flour mill. I had been driving right past it every week! Even casual conversations have led to local leads. I am beginning to discover (with minimal effort) that I do have options.

Of course growing and preserving food from your own backyard is as local as it gets! While we are not there yet I do find inspiration in those who are living la vida local.

La Vida Locavore
Eat Local Challenge
100 Mile Diet
The Ethicurean
Foodie Tots

I am sure throughout 2009 you will be seeing posts about my trials and tribulations of eating local. Until then, you can read intelligent posts from those who are actually living the life, Sunday at the Green Phone Booth.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I've been tagged.

Rebecca at The Green Baby Guide has tagged my blog. I like to go to GBG every Thursday for the Thrifty Green Thursday posts. You have probably seen a few of my contributions here. Okay, back to tagging.

The tagging rules:

1) Link back to the person who tagged you and share the rules on your blog
2) Share 7 facts about yourself
3) Tag seven people and list their links in your post

4) Tell those 7 people by commenting on their blog

greeen sheeep aka Rebecca
  1. Am addicted to milk and lip balm.
  2. In love with John Cusack.
  3. Asked for worms for Christmas.
  4. Adore my Grandmother.
  5. Am an event planner.
  6. Have freckles.
  7. As someone who worked in the mall for six years, competed in demolition derbies, raced snowmobiles, owned a burn barrel, refused to shop second hand, and could burn boiling water; I am the last person I thought would be blogging about anti-consumerism, biking, recycling, frugal living, and making food from scratch!
Blogs I'm tagging:

Friday, November 7, 2008

Sustainable Subway?

Surprisingly Subway is trimming more than waistlines. It did wonders for Jared, can Subway help save the rest of us? Read about their surprising sustainable initiatives in my post at The Green Phone Booth.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Thrifty Green Thursday - Laying it on the line.

Basement clothesline.

During the summer it easy to conserve energy and money by hanging your clothes outside to dry. But, what about the winter or HOA's that do not allow outdoor clotheslines? If you are lucky to have an unfinished basement like me, And yes I said lucky. Most people consider finished basements a bonus, but I prefer a raw space. It is a great workspace, storage area, and place for the kids to hang out without worrying about mess. you can bring your clothesline inside.

When I first considered having an indoor line I searched the internet and found all different types.

Ceiling Mounted

Wall Mounted

Free Standing

Garage Door Line

None of these applications suited my needs. The retractable line would have entailed drilling holes in concrete. The ceiling mount would have clothes hanging for all to see immediately entering the mudroom. No good place for the wall mount. The freestanding would work, but I have a fairly large amount of laundry and do not feel like constantly pulling it out and putting it away. Leaving it out would just be in the way. No garage door either, not like that anyway. Plus, there is the price!

I finally realized my local hardware store would have all I need. Once I decided on a good location, in the basement where it is warm in the winter and out of sight/the way, it was only a matter of six eye screws, three turnbuckles, and line.

  1. Screw the eye bolts into floor joists.
  2. Attach line to one end.
  3. Place turnbuckles on other end.
  4. Attach line to turnbuckles.
  5. Tighten line.
  6. Hang clothes!

Right now I have three lines. If that proves to not be enough I can simply add more. I had left over clothesline from my outdoor line. The eye screws and turnbuckles cost $29.66. So for under 30 bucks and I can dry my clothes for free year round. Line drying combined with power strips shaved $60 a month off my summer electric bill! I do not know that I can ever bring myself to use my dryer again. Well, except for fluffing. My family complains if the clothes are crunchy. So once they have dried on line I throw them in the dryer and air fluff/no heat for ten minutes. They come out soft and there is no whining.

Plus, if you read I Need a Staycation then you know about my trip to the hospital to get the head of a tick removed from my side. I have a scar to remember the moment. I saw a sign in a bar once that read, "Check you Chick for Ticks." For all you outdoor line dryers out there, this one's for you!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Plastic-free Posse


A word that sends shivers down my spine. What a double-edged sword. Convenient and inconvenient all bagged up in one toxic package. I never gave it much thought before. I perceived it as cheap and not much beyond that. Now I know that it is a problem of monumental proportion.

It is washing up on our beaches.

Clogging our land.

Killing our wildlife.

And litters our planet.

It is everywhere and in everything! But there is something you can do about it. One of my favorite bloggers Beth of Fake Plastic Fish has put out a call to action. She writes tirelessly about the perils of plastic and how to avoid it. Now she is looking for more voices. It is because of blogs like hers that I became aware of the plastic problem. If more of us start talking about it, even more people will learn about it.

I have decided to join the Plastic-free Posse. In doing so, she posed these questions to me:

1) What was it that first inspired you to eliminate plastic from your life? Was it a particular issue? News article? Experience? And when was this?
For me it has been a culmination of things over the past year. Moving to a new home and realizing just how much crap we had. Trying unsuccessfully to conceive and in doing infertility research stumbling upon EWG's Skin Deep Database. Discovering blogs like Fake Plastic Fish. Gradually becoming more aware of the impact I have and realizing I have a choice.

2) What have been the 1-3 easiest changes to make?
1. Reusable bags. So simple it boggles my mind that I accepted plastic shopping bags as normal for so long. 2. Making food from scratch. Avoiding prepackaged convenience meals has cut our weekly garbage load from seven bags to two. 3. The safety razor. Way more economical, comfortable, and so easy a 12 year old can do it.

3) What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Besides getting the family on board? Packaging. The things we do still buy are inevitably packaged in plastic.

4) What one thing would you say to encourage others to lessen their plastic consumption?
I saw a quote left in the comments of a blog once that resonated with me, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without!"