Monday, December 8, 2008
One month into snow season I give one boy my own pair of snowpants, he managed to blow the knee out of his own sledding down a hill into a rock.
One boy has one glove and one mitten in two different colors rescued from the miscellaneous winter item bin I've been collecting for 13 years.
Hats are seemingly either too small or much too large, from what I guess is the pushing, pulling and grabbing of some sort of snow tackle football.
The rug by my front door is a slushy, muddy mess.
My backyard is no longer a beautiful, pristine expanse of snowy white snow. It's covered with boot tracks, sled tracks, dog tracks, a wayward sled and piles of ice-balls.
And all this in the first solid month of winter. I have 3 months and 21 days until the first chance of spring thaw. However...
It's 7:50 p.m. My boys are exhausted, one is already asleep and the others are actually quietly watching a movie and getting along with each other. Even the dogs are too tired to beg for treats. I guess I'll make it through another winter, even if I have to buy another pair of snowpants.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
These magic numbers aren't always met. I'm often late to work, I stand in the shower too long on cold winter mornings, I still haven't sent out my Christmas cards and as for the upcoming parent teacher conferences? Let's just say I have a sticky note on the steering wheel of my van so I don't forget...
However there are a few magic numbers that I don't even think about anymore. I used to count how many paper towels I used in a day, trying to shrink my usage. Today I realized I bought a six pack of paper towels back in the hot and humid summer months and haven't bought a new package since.
I used to count juice boxes, bottled juices and cans, making sure I had enough for all my boys. Today, as long as I see each boy's SIGG, easily identifiable by the unique designs they each chose, sitting in the fridge, there is no need to count. I can make more tea, more lemonade or just fill them with tap water.
Each trip to the store used to make me count plastic bags I took because I forgot a tote bag in the van or just plain forgot to tell the clerk to use my own bag. I got into the routine, carrying bags in every store, even the mall, and haven't taken a plastic bag in so long... well, I just can't count how long.
The moral of story? I might not hit all my magic numbers that I intend to when I start out my day, but taking some time to stop and count the ones I have hit time and time again is rewarding. And, it will make me feel a little better about something I'm sure to forget tomorrow. Now, how many treats do I need for the preschool this week? Lemme count...
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
So, does this mean carbon footprint be damned? Oh, pardon madame, it does not. Yes, we flew to Paris and I know, I know that's a lot of fossil fuel. However, after six days in Paris, do you want to know how many times we road in a car? One taxi, only one - for under 10 minutes as we were caught in the pouring rain. On arrival we road the RER B train straight from Charles de Gaulle into Paris where we caught a series of Metro lines direct to our hotel. From there we traversed the entire city by metro, by foot and even by Batobus on the river Seine. This is a four year-old boy's dream. Buses, trains, planes and boats... Who knew public transportation could be so fun?!?
We taught our son about leisurely lunches in cafes, the treasures of the Louvre, how the Eiffel Tower was constructed and even how good a hot crepe wrapped in wax paper tastes on a cold, wet and windy afternoon standing in front of Notre Dame.
Will I continue to trade a little carbon footprint damage on an airplane for the chance to teach my children that it's really a small world - and not because Disney tells us so? You bet. Will I schelp my luggage, stroller, a stuffed dalmatian, a backpack and a briefcase up and down countless escalators, staircases and one or two really smelly elevators in the Metro because public transportation is part of the experience and is good for the environment? Right again. That's something else I can teach my children while we're abroad, because I can't do it in Detroit.
Teaching my children how to be gracious in French, how to respect another culture and keep some of our green practices in check is all about balance. There's got to be a little give and take in this world and I'm happy to be able to do some of both. Merci!
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Needless to say, I'm guessing the floodgates have opened and we will be munching and crunching our way through our basement shelves now!!
Friday, November 21, 2008
With my older boys off and biking around the neighborhood and a lake right in our backyard, this is always a concern for me. Between swimming in the lake and rolling around in the park playing football, my boys are certainly germ and toxin carriers! Check it out here: GreenScreener
Thursday, November 20, 2008
What? 100% recyclable? That isn't new! ALL water bottles are recyclable. Eco shape? Smaller label? Less plastic? Whatever. Ooooh, it's FLEXIBLE! That's it, I am *so* sold! Gimme that bottle! As I'm sure all water companies must have heard by now that 60 million empty water bottles are thrown away (read: not recycled) every freakin' day in the US. And, to make matters worse one single person uses 166 disposable plastic water bottles each year.
Is this greenwashing? I certainly felt like it was yesterday as I watched every single meeting attendee throw their water bottles, soda cans, cardboard deli trays and napkins straight into the trash can. I think it's better than nothing, but barely so. Is it deceptive to try to make the consumer feel good about buying this plastic bottle over the other plastic bottle? Isn't any plastic bottle in the landfill a bad plastic bottle? If you don't recycle it, how is this bottle that much better than any other?
Ahhh, if it smells like greenwashing, then I'm pretty sure each sip tastes like greenwashing. Or, BPAs, whatever comes first.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Packed my bag with an empty thermos (for my airport Starbucks), threw in a container of roasted nuts, a couple of fruit leathers, my trusty iPod, a book I've been meaning to read and my Clean Well hand sanitizer. The working mom is back on the road. My day today goes like this:
Up at 3:30 a.m.
In mini-van by 4:15 a.m.
At airport by 5:00 a.m.
Take off 6:15 a.m.
NYC by 8:30 a.m.
Meetings until 3:30 p.m.
Back to LaGuardia at 4:30 p.m.
Take off at 5:45 p.m.
Home at 8:45 p.m.
Tomorrow? I'm making peach pie. With ice cream. I deserve it. And, so does my husband who was at home, watching over four boys. Or, maybe my boys deserve the pie for putting up with my husband. OK, pie all around. Yum.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
I haven't made a pie with all the peaches that almost brought me to tears, there were so many.
Not a single muffin has been made with the tens of pounds of blueberries picked by hand by my boys.
Carrots are frozen, waiting for soup and stew.
Pickles have been canned in their tangy bread and butter brine, but they sit on a shelf in my basement gathering dust.
Row after row of crushed tomatoes are soldiered together on the shelf below, waiting to weather the lasagna brigade sure to come.
Save for a few cupfuls of corn tossed into the soup I made on Sunday and the single can of blueberry cherry sauce I cracked open to serve with crepes during a brunch I was hosting, I haven't touched a thing.
What is wrong with me? Am I hoarding food? Squirreling it away like the furry critters still racing around my backyard furiously trying to hide just one more nut?
I think it's knowing all of that hard work, the precious hours, the late nights and the memory of the farmer's markets will be gone in an instant. I like looking at the rows of shiny jars, the perfectly stacked freezer storage bags labeled so neatly in my deep freezer and the funny root cellar contraption I cobbled together in my garage holding my boxed apples, potatoes and onions. I feel well stocked, ready and prepared.
So, what now? Is it time? When do we eat?
Sunday, November 16, 2008
That doesn't mean I only eat lobster and truffles with a side of caviar or anything. Actually, I prefer hearty, home cooked comfort foods over fancy dining any day. Beside, my boys would totally freak out and threaten to strike if fish eggs were on the menu... For that matter, me too.
What I mean is that I prefer my local raw organic cheese, which isn't cheap. I love my fair trade, freshly roasted organic coffee from my food club, but it's certainly more expensive than Folgers. I can't live with the mental anguish that comes with buying meats from factory farms. So, by cutting out the eating out we can still afford these little necessities / luxuries.
Still, I'm back to a full time working mom status and that means that I don't have as much time to prepare all these home cooked, comfort food meals. That said, I've started a new tradition in the Eco Burban household... Sunday cram-session cooking. Cram in as many meals (using similar ingredients) and prep them, or fully cook them so they can be quickly reheated and do it all in one afternoon. This way I can stretch my food dollar and my precious time with my kids.
Today I whipped around my kitchen like one of those crabby celebrity chefs, muttered swear words and all, and managed to bang out the following meals in under three hours:
One humanely and locally raised chicken in the slow cooker gave me:
1 cheesy chicken noodle casserole
1 extra large pot adobo chile, chicken, bean & corn tortilla soup
7 cups of chicken stock reserved in the freezer for another meal
I also prepped a 2.5 lb. tangy BBQ turkey meatloaf and cream cheese smashed potatoes
18 freshly baked chocolate cupcakes perfect for hungry boy's lunchboxes (organic and local mix courtesy of our local mill)
These three meals will provide not only meals possibly not one, but two nights these week. They will also provide leftover lunches for me to take to the office all week.
That is, of course. depending on hungry boys... Last week in a single sitting we put down 2.5 pounds of chicken, 2 pounds of potatoes and 12 bread sticks.
In. One. Meal. Scary, ain't it? Now you know why I have to stretch my food dollar!
Thursday, November 13, 2008
I am a big fan of Craigslist, the thrift stores and Freecycle and according to the article, the numbers are growing:
The Salvation Army has seen sales jump 15 percent at some locations, while The Freecycle Network, a clearing house for second-hand goods has grown from 40 people to around 6 million since its founding in 2003. Each day, the group says, it keeps 500 tons of stuff out of landfills and in use. Another second-hand movement, known as The Compact, where members commit to buying nothing new for an entire year (underwear excluded), has grown from 10 friends to 10,000 members since 2004. Even those who are still buying new are viewing shopping through a changed lens: almost 40 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 30 prefer to use brands that are "socially conscious"—environmentally safe and produced through fair labor.
I don't know about you, but I certainly don't want a lot of "consumers" driving up the prices at thrift stores or on Craigslist, only to throw away what they don't want or didn't need. I have looked to these places for years to find great reusable goods for Halloween costumes, back to school or holiday decorating. It's been great for the planet and good for the budget. It's a sustainable way of life, so "consumers" please think twice before you shop. Consider the planet, consider your budget and consider what you truly need. If you don't need it, don't buy it. Thank you.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
So, how am I going to manage a nice Christmas without breaking the bank AND staying green? Craigslist, plain and simple. Last weekend we bought our 4-year old a new loft bed, as his toddler bed was much, much too small. We saved $1200 by buying a year old set, exactly the same as still sold at the furniture store today. This same mathematical equation can easily be applied to Christmas shopping. For example:
My boys own sports gear (expeeeensive sports gear) for all the sports they play competitively. Baseball, indoor baseball, track, cross country, basketball and so on. However, other sports they just dabble in (hockey, soccer & football) we just peruse Craigslist.
This winter they all want hockey skates to kick around in on our lake after the deep freeze that's rapidly approaching. Detroit really is "Hockey-town" with many young boys playing on hockey leagues wearing ridiculously expensive skates. Where do they off load these skates after a couple of months? Craigslist.
A pair of top quality, barely worn skates that retail for $160 can be easily found for only $30. I'm no math whiz, but that ratio certainly makes sense to me!
Now that I have the skates, I'm getting busy looking for used video games. Anyone have a couple of used Madden 09 video games they want to part with???
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
As if we didn't already know the food system in our country was broken and it was a bad, bad, bad idea to eat food coming from China, here's a warning about Halloween chocolates that may contain melamine. The warning comes from Canada regarding Pirate's Gold Milk Chocolate Coins sold in Costco stores. Please read the article and make sure to check your children's Halloween baskets for these candies and warn them against eating anything before the arrive home.
"On October 8, 2008, The Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a consumer advisory warning the public not eat, distribute or sell Sherwood brand Pirate's Gold milk chocolate imported from China. The candy is being recalled for testing positive for the industrial chemical melamine, a substance at the center of the tainted milk controversy in China. The coins were being sold across Canada by Costco and may have also been vended in bulk packaged or as individual pieces at dollar and bulk stores."
Monday, October 27, 2008
The forecast is pretty bleak here in Michigan. Chrysler plans to cut one out of every four jobs by the end of the year, Ford and GM are pretty much in the same boat. Plants are closing, local businesses are shuttered, people are moving and prospects are pretty grim.
To make up for our decrease in income, I have been back to working full time, including travel, stress and 50-60 hour weeks. My husband is working pretty much all hours of the waking day and we are trying not to become one of the statistics. We keep telling ourselves that we're just thankful to be employed, we're thankful to have our home and we're most thankful for our healthy children.
Our neighborhood, once easily recognized as "the" place to live by simply mentioning a zip code is now a wasteland of dreams. Many homes have been foreclosed upon and auctioned, some just up and abandoned. One of those was looted and used by teenagers as a party place, so today I look from my kitchen window upon a boarded up home complete with sagging siding and waist-high weeds. This certainly can't be where I live, this is not where I want to be today.
I've tried to find the good, fighting to stay green around the edges as the green in our wallet dwindled. We've volunteered our time instead of donating our money, we helped neighbors in their time of crisis, we've looked for the silver lining.
It just wasn't there.
If you would, please excuse the lack of posts. Pardon the partisan political statements. I apologize for the lack of fun and humor. I've just lost my ability to find my way at the moment. The way back to the way it was before. Before my friends were losing their jobs left and right. Before foreclosure was so common my kids now know about their friends losing their homes. Before banks got a bailout while parents work 50 hour weeks just to save their homes and dreams.
I'll be dropping in and out here, when I can, and reading your blogs for a pick-me-up. Goodness knows, I certainly will need them! See you soon,
~ Eco 'burban mom
Thursday, October 23, 2008
1. Carry a Sigg, Kleen Kanteen or other reusable water bottle as well as morning coffee mug. Remember - please don't attempt to carry a Sigg full of water or tea through security. They really don't look to happy when you want to dump water into one of the gray bins. Bonus? While in meetings your co-workers will sneak curious glances at your dented, birdie and flower printed Sigg and wonder... "What in the heck do you think she's got in there??"
2. Why walk when you can ride? I'm from Detroit and we lack any reliable source of public transportation of any kind, so when in Rome.... At trade shows, large cities or markets I ride the shuttle buses, opt for ride share taxis or vans to and from the airports, I take the train or subways. Occasionally, I have a co-worker or two who thinks this is a hassle, but for the most part they are game and I save the company some cash which they love.
3. Hotel living is certainly not like home, but you should act like it. Turn out the lights when you leave the room, ask the front desk not to leave a newspaper at your door (unless you read it, then in which case recycle it), reuse your towels, turn of the tap and in general, behave just as you would at home. Except for the whole "yank off the yucky comforter and throw it in the corner" thing...
4. BYOS - otherwise known as "Bring Your Own Stuff". A shampoo bar is a girl's best friend. It gets around the TSA's funny "NO LIQUIDS unless in a 3 oz. container in yet another plastic zip-top bag" rule. For a few days a shampoo bar is perfect for washing your hair, scrubbing your bod and even shaving your legs and underarms. Those little freebies at the hotel? Leave them untouched or ask the front desk to remove them so they can be used by someone who needs them.
5. Here's my biggest pitfall. Eating out. When with a large group someone usually says, let's eat at Crapplebees or Thank God It's Not Fridays! UGH. Factory farmed meats, dehydrated veggies and corn syrup laden drinks. Sometimes you just can't avoid going with the group consensus, at which time I usually ask the waiter for vegetarian options, usually getting the eyebrow raise from a co-worker as if to say, Oh, she's one of those. Yeah, well, I'm also your boss so let's keep that in mind. However, when I'm traveling solo, or with an adventurous pal, I usually ask the concierge for a local suggestion or a place specializing in fresh, organic or regional specialty foods. I have had some pretty good opportunities to dine in some great restaurants from coast to coast that might have looked questionable from the outside, but had some great food and people inside. The bellman is usually pretty happy to suggest his wife's favorite restaurant or his brother's little hole in the wall place specializing in killer tamales!
6. Guilt gifts. I hate to say it, but sometimes you just gotta cave and bring the kiddies something so they have that to look forward to when Mom comes home. And? Dad can totally snap a four-year old out of an "I miss Mommy whiiiiine" with the reminder of a special surprise sure to come. A great idea is to stock up on things AHEAD of time. I never have a spare minute while on the road and I hate to buy plastic, airport crap. The next time you are at a craft fair or art store, pick up neat (read lightweight...) coloring books, crafts, books, tattoos, pencils etc. and stash them in a back or hidden pocket of your travel case. Voila! Upon returning home choose and item or two and you have a gift you can live with purchasing and you are a four-year old's very cool Mom.
There you have it, I have tons of little tips and tricks for business travel. But, I am home and have a mountain of laundry to do and lots of little kiddies that want to see what I've brought them....
Saturday, October 18, 2008
So, whomever your candidate, whatever your party, please spread messages of hope. Please spread messages of community. Please tell your children stories about how to work together, to bring peace to our country and to care about one another. Please spread the hope!
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Would the country's collective point of view be different?
Ponder the following:
What if the Obamas had paraded five children across the stage, including a three month old infant and an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter?
What if John McCain was a former president of the Harvard Law Review?
What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class?
What if McCain had only married once, and Obama was a divorcee?
What if Obama was the candidate who left his first wife after a severe disfiguring car accident, when she no longer measured up to his standards?
What if Obama had met his second wife in a bar and had a long affair while he was still married?
What if Michelle Obama was the wife who not only became addicted to painkillers but also acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?
What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard?
What if Obama had been a member of the Keating Five? (The Keating Five were five United States Senators accused of corruption in 1989, igniting a major political scandal as part of the larger Savings and Loan crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s.)
What if McCain was a charismatic, eloquent speaker, and Obama couldn't read correctly from a teleprompter?
What if Obama was the one with a history of public display, on many occasions, of a serious anger management problem?
What if Michelle Obama's family had made their money from beer distribution?
What if the Obamas had adopted a white child?
You could easily add to this list. If these questions reflected reality, do you really believe the election numbers would be as close as they are? This is what racism does. It covers up, rationalizes and minimizes positive qualities in one candidate and emphasizes negative qualities in another when there is a color difference. Neither is perfect but color shouldn't be a factor.
Columbia University - B.A. Political Science with a Specialization in International Relations.
Harvard - Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude ("With Great Honor")
University of Delaware - B.A. in History and B.A. in Political Science.
Syracuse University College of Law - Juris Doctor (J.D.)
United States Naval Academy - Class rank: 894 of 899
Hawaii Pacific University - 1 semester
North Idaho College - 2 semesters - general study
University of Idaho - 2 semesters - journalism
Matanuska-Susitna College - 1 semester
University of Idaho - 3 semesters - B.A. in Journalism
Education may not be everything, but this is about the two highest offices in the land as well as our standing in the world. Think about it!
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Craigslist antique furniture find - 1910 Mission-style dining set made of quarter-sawn oak - a table, 8 chairs, 4 leaves, custom made cabinet for leaf storage, buffet and mirror for $2300.
Planet savings: Buying used helps to control use of forested trees, toxic chemicals and factory waste and trucking carbon emissions. Buying locally put my $2300 right back into the hands of a family less than 30 minutes from my home.
Wallet savings: A comparable set of the same quality new would have cost around $11,000. Of course we have a few dings and scuffs and the chair seats should be recovered. So, I really only estimate my savings to average around $6000. However, with that savings I can contribute to all four of my boy's college funds for an entire year.
Setting the table:
We've nixed paper plates, disposable utensils and paper cups.
Planet savings: It's proven that an energy star rated dishwasher only run when full saves 25% more energy than the standard dishwasher. You save even more by choosing the no-heat dry cycle. One set of good quality stoneware and utensils will last for years. (Unless you have - ahem - boys with the dropsies!) All of the paper plates, utensils and cups saved from the landfill for a family of six is potentially staggering.
Wallet savings: When we used to buy paper plates I could easily use a $10.50 package of Dixie plates from Costco every two weeks - roughly the same for paper cups. A total monthly cost of $30-40. Factor in a slight increase in dishwasher usage and I approximate a monthly savings of $25. That sounds little today, but when you add it up over a year I am saving $300. One car payment. The January gas bill. Two nights of hotel stay on vacation. That's worth it!
Green changes are great for the planet, but when you add up the savings, it really is great for your wallet.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
- "Naturally the smart thing to do to solve your economic woes is to demonize the Democrats. And of course, Sarah Palin is more than happy to oblige. She's been saying that Obama hangs out with terrorists. And you know, I think the evangelical lady who's in a video getting blessed by a witch doctor, who's married to a secessionist, and can't name a newspaper -- she's right, Obama is scary." --Bill Maher
- "The question she keeps asking at all of the rallies is, 'Who is Barack Obama?' You know what, genius, maybe if you'd picked up a newspaper in the last year you'd know. He's the guy who's kicking your ass." --Bill Maher
- "They had the town hall format, and that meant that the candidates could wander around on stage. You know, I like John McCain, but wandering around on stage there, he looked like a retiree who can't find his Buick." --David Letterman
- "Are you excited about Sarah Palin? Well, yesterday she referred to Afghanistan as our neighboring country. Apparently, she can see bin Laden's cave from her house." --David Letterman
- "The legislative panel in Alaska investing Troopergate released their report that says Sarah Palin illegally abused her power as governor by firing the state police chief because he wouldn't fire her sister's ex-husband. But they said she didn't actually break the law so she won't go to prison. Which is a pity because it would have been the first time she was ever involved in a complete sentence." --Bill Maher
- Jon Stewart on whether he's taking sides in the election: "If you, out of nowhere, are going to grab a woman out of the woods and make her your vice presidential candidate, what can I do? [Sarah Palin] is like Jodie Foster in the movie 'Nell.' They just found her, and she was speaking her own special language. Have you noticed how [Palin's] rallies have begun to take on the characteristics of the last days of the Weimar Republic? In Florida, she asked 'Who is Barack Obama?' Hey, lady, we just met YOU five f**ing weeks ago."
Friday, October 10, 2008
To share a little, I'm a young mother and I've been through some pretty lean times when my kids were young and I had little money. If the rent was paid and the kids fed, it was a successful week. Though, through education and hard work I've managed to own a nice home, drive a new car, I never worry about food on the table and have even carved out a little savings, an IRA and some college fund cash for later use. Only to see my hard work, sweat and tears being pissed away each time I open a statement from our financial advisor. And, now I'M pissed. Really. I am. I have succeeded because I busted my ass. I worked hard, I put my kids first and I have given back whenever I could and now? I'm being punished for it and so is my bank account.
Friends ask why I just don't give up this "green thing" as they call it. Isn't it more expensive? Oh, all that organic food just costs so much, they say. Wouldn't eating regular food save you some money? What about all the natural beauty products? Wouldn't you just save more by getting all of that from Target? I can't imagine what you pay for handmade soap!
And then, I am just pissed again. Why doesn't anyone see it? I actually, freakin' SAVE money by being conscious of what I buy and who I buy it from. Because of that local businesses benefit from my dollar spent, which means they in turn can buy products from someone else. Hellooooo? Anyone in there? If our dollars are spent in our own community, maybe EVERYONE would benefit. Cripes.
So, rather than keep ranting and choking back curse words, I thought I would write a simple series of posts on "The Cost of Going Green". Do you want to see in my wallet? Do you want to see where my money goes? Do you want to know exactly how much I save each month by going green? Well, then, I'll tell ya. It's actually freakishly frugal.
Starting next week, look for my new series of posts, organized by room of the home, right on down to the furry, four-footed critters sleeping on my feet at this very moment. I swear, it's cheaper. I swear, it's better for the environment. I swear, it's better for the local economy. And, most of all? I swear, it's easy. And, today with all the craziness and stress, couldn't we all use a little easy?
Oh, I see you rolling your eyes out there. You don't believe me, do you? Put down the Cascadian Farms granola bar and back away from the Horizon yogurt in plastic tubes, you'll be glad you did. Your wallet will thank you. The planet might even hug you. See you on Monday!
Sunday, October 5, 2008
These bloggers have wonderful ideas, however I hadn't really ventured out of my own shell to try these ideas on for size until Friday night. See, I do attempt to build community, though I tend to stay in my own comfort zone. We started a recycling program for our little league which was a challenge, yet directly related to my boys, so I tackled it. I wrote our school district leaders and had a conference call with the food service department to address the reauthorization of The Child Nutrition Act that affects the school lunch program. Again, I reached out into my community, but again, it directly affected my family and their schools. I write letters to congress, address ecological issues to our Lake Association and even host the blog for our local Michigan for Obama campaign office.
Selfishly, many of these efforts are directly related to things I personally feel passionate about or want changed in our community. This Friday I broke out of my comfort zone and attended a "Power of Community" meeting planned by the brilliant woman who organizes our food club.
She brought together farmers, bee keepers, students, energy conservation specialists, teachers, bloggers and activists. The first half of the evening was a screening of the movie "The Power of Community - How Cuba Survived Peak Oil" For those who haven't seen this movie, it's an hour well spent. I'm sure your local library might have it or it cold be found online. Yes, you could watch this movie by yourself, but as the woman who sponsored our event said, "Isn't the point of community, getting together as a community to watch the movie?" I plan to review the movie in a later post, for those interested.
The second half of the evening featured introductions of all the "Community Leaders" she invited that were present in the audience followed by a meet and greet in the lobby where products and information were available. And, wouldn't you know it, she asked two bloggers in the audience to stand up - I was surprised to find out my name was being called. How could I be a community leader? I simply sit behind my desk, with the anonymously of my computer screen to protect me and I blog. I write letters. I pass along valuable information. I get frustrated, I rant, I write funnies about my kids and sometimes I just vent. I rarely think that this little contribution builds community.
As the leader of our food club pointed out, alone she wouldn't have the time to research the information I write about on the food club blog. Alone, she wouldn't be able to reach across the country, from east coast to west, gathering information about food, politics, policy and greener living. She doesn't have the time. She is busy sourcing local foods, meeting with farmers, organizing her product for the Farmer's Market and most importantly, raising her twin boys. That's her part in building community. And mine? The information I provide to her and the members of our club is my little part in building community. See? Even a novice can do it! So, each time you sit at your computer to blog and you don't think it really matters or that no one is reading. They are. You are building community with every keystroke!
Thursday, October 2, 2008
While in Trader Joe's for groceries, my youngest happily pointed out to the clerk manning the register that he found the stuffed monkey hidden in the coffee and he would like his "prize". After joyously accepting his organic lollipop the clerk asks if he would like a balloon. Oh, yes, goodie, goodie yes he would certainly like a balloon! Green, please.
The clerk reaches up and takes the entire group of green balloons and proceeds to offer one small four-year old the ENTIRE batch balloons. My son looks up at him quizzically and says, "No fwanks, I onaly need one bawoon." The clerk is surprised and looks at me as if to say, what are you kidding me? I was going to give him seven balloons and he only wants one?
I reach down, tie the single green balloon to my son's wrist and head to the parking lot. Hey, Bubba, I ask, why did you only want one balloon? His wise little face, dripping with sticky lollipop residue looks up at me and grins. "Momma, I need to leave bawoons at the store for other kids. Someone else might want a green one too!"
Yes, everything we needed to know we learned in Kindergarten. Imagine if we all only took what we needed and made sure everyone got what they needed too. Thanks for the lesson, little one, you certainly are wise!
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Update: Apparently this video has mysteriously disappeared from CNN. Don't you find that just a little suspicious? I do! So, if you still want to see the video, you can still get it on YouTube!
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
Two boxes of tissues, countless tea bags and lots of TV watching and I'm still not feeling any better. What have I noticed about being sick? It's not green. Not even a little bit green. This morning I am still single-handedly destroying trees and forests with my tissue usage, styrofoam take-out containers litter the fridge (eco 'burban dad was in charge of feeding the restless natives...) and cardboard bagel buckets reside in my recycling bin. Ugh.
Well, you win some and you lose some. I'm off to toast my leftover bagel in the office kitchen. However, it will be spread with my own homemade jam and some local butter. I guess I'm on the mend!
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
And, yes, this too is a crisis that could lead to the US's demise as an economic superpower, but is the only worry we have right now the death of banks that really shouldn't have been giving out these kinds of loans anyway?
What are we as a nation reading these days? News of former teen star Lindsay Lohan becoming lesbian tops news the Arctic Circle has dwindled to it's second lowest level making polar bears so desperate they resort to cannibalism.
Even political news is dominated by eye glass trends and email scandal. Doesn't anyone in government, politics or business care that our environment is in crisis too? That in 30 years it really won't make a difference what type of eyeglasses our president might wear or that former teen-queen junkies are unfit parents? Because our earth might be too hot or too unstable or too unsafe for our children to inhabit?
Big surprise, people, big surprise. Don't tell me you didn't see it coming. You didn't care. Today's news stories ranking as most popular? Nicole Kidman is crediting a waterfall she swam in with her fertility. Our possible, shudder, future Vice President likes to pose for pretty pictures, but prefers to dodge and hide when it's time to answer tough questions. Why aren't we reading about health care strategies or renewable energy plans? What about education for the poor, healthier school lunches or animal rights?
I'm screaming inside. I feel sick. Yes, I care about our financial crisis and the election too, when the candidates aren't bickering and pointing fingers anyway. But, that doesn't mean I stopped caring about the environment, education, our children, the Arctic Circle or animal rights. Will someone please press the reset button on the media? On the government? On the political parties? Thank you.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
From the corner of the store I hear a little boy squeal of delight. Out of the depths of a basket he pulls a large monster truck emblazoned with "Grave Digger" in neon green lettering. I gamely try to talk him out of the toy, begging him to think of all the other trucks and cars stashed in his bedroom.
No dice. He's in love with monster trucks, much to my chagrin. (Ummm, I know very little about monster trucks, but something tells me they're NOT eco-friendly?!?) I check the price tag - $2.99. A bargain really, considering it most likely cost a good $30 or more with it's flashing lights and motorized actions. Grave Digger came home with us, and now takes up the most prize parking spot in the eco 'burban boy's bedroom.
This week is "My Favorite Thing" week at his preschool. Rather than choose an expensive remote controlled car, a fancy brand-new truck or even a favorite blankie, "Grave Digger" is going to school. I smile as I pack the truck into his backpack. Who knew $2.99 for a reused toy would bring him - and me - so much joy.
Make no mistakes, the thrift store isn't just for clothing. Sometimes it's the "Favorite Toy Store" too.
Ike reached us all the way in Michigan. We got more than 8 inches of rain in 24 hours. (Following steady down pouring rain unrelated to Ike the entire day prior) Lakes and rivers reached historical heights, roads washed away, basements flooded. My 65 year old lake cottage home sprung a leak in her original foundation that held tight through many families before my own.
Warming, Ike screamed! Warning! Ice caps are melting, ocean temperatures are rising, storms are strengthening. Take heed and protect your family. Protect your planet. Protect your fragile ecosystems.
As I listen to the hum of our two dehumidifiers, one fan and one clothes dryer motor continuously in our basement I understand the power of a storm that started near the equator and reached as far north as the Canadian border. I also realize how lucky I am to be warm, safe and dry with electricity connected and water flowing.
For those of us safely out of the path of hurricanes, tidal waves, tornadoes and monsoons, it's our responsibility to protect those directly in their wake. It does take a village to raise a planet! For those able to donate to the victims of Hurricane Ike, please visit the Red Cross and give to those in need. For those unable to donate, please protect our planet. Reduce, reuse, recycle, rethink!
Monday, September 15, 2008
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Thanks to Green Bean's back to school post, I pitched the idea of a sustainable schoolyard to my oldest three son's middle school PTSA president and we have a meeting this Friday to explore the concept in tandem with our Science Department and Life Management classrooms.
I sent my school district leaders my post on the importance of commenting on the USDA's website to improve the future of school lunches before the reauthorization of The Child Nutrition Act in 2009 - and got great feedback. Then I took it a step further. After reading The Green Parent's back to school post I also threw out the idea of the Farm to School project to the school principal and the PTSA and again, we are meeting soon to explore the idea of allocating Michigan's $1.9 million in funding for fresh foods (currently purchased from Tennessee?!?!) to our local farmers. This program only operates in four school districts in our entire state and I would love to be the fifth.
Yesterday, while driving to Whole Foods, I passed a small strip mall with a little sign and arrow pointing to my city's 'Michigan for Obama' campaign office. I went inside and met with the Field Organizer to see how I could help. You are now looking at the official blog host and website organizer for the local campaign in my city. (If you're in Southeastern Michigan and want to come by, click the link, we'd love to have you!) I blog about upcoming events, canvassing and volunteer opportunities as well as Obama's policy and reform stances. I'm getting the word out and using a skill that can help make a change.
My own personal blog may look a little scattered for the next couple of months while all these programs get off the ground, but isn't that why we blog anyway? To make change? To inspire change? To be the change? I have been inspired by many of you bloggers out there and I hope to inspire you today. Democrat or Republican, stand up for what you believe in. Volunteer to help. Teach your children the importance of democracy in our country. Vote. Knock on doors. Put a sign in your yard. Blog. Stand up and be proud.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Sunday, September 7, 2008
photo: ****b/c**** on Flickr
I can't remember the last time I had a Starbucks, went to the mall or ordered fast food.
This is my post submitted to the September APLS Carnival. If you want to submit your thoughts, however alien and strange they may be, to the APLS Carnival, please hurry! The mother ship departs on September 10th, so get on over to the APLS blog for more info.
Friday, September 5, 2008
Please take the time to make your voice heard. Comment today and then write a letter to your principal, your PTA president, your Food Service Department. I can't stress how important food choices are to your children. Where is the one place during the day they make their own decisions? It's the school lunch room. Do I take the fruit cup or pass it by because it looks "gross". Do I eat my veggies or toss them in the trash because they are "disgusting".
I will forward your email to our district - Supervisor of Food Services, (name) and to (the school's) head cook, (name). Our food service department has done much to address these concerns, and I am sure (the staff) would be happy to talk with you to provide the details. I will also forward your email to our PTSA president, (name). (She) is very involved and always eager to address concerns. Thanks so much. (Principal)
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Today, energized by a sunny holiday weekend spent with my children, I realized I could do more. Did you comment? Do you want to take it a step further? To quote someone very politically relevant - YES, I CAN! Today I wrote a letter to every member of the school board as well as my children's school principals and some powerful PTA women that I know that can really get the job done. It was so simple and so quick. Visit your school's website, scout out the email addresses and type a quick letter. No time to write the letter? Here - take mine! Just don't tell the kids how quick and easy plagiarism can be!
Dear Members of the Board,
My name is (eco 'burban mom), a mother of four boys attending the (ABC) Consolidated Schools. I am writing you today to request your attention to an important matter:
The Child Nutrition Act - a major piece of federal legislation that helps determine school food policy and resources – will begin reauthorization in 2009. Amazingly, this act has been unchanged since the 1960's and besides being outdated, it doesn't address many issues facing students today, such as: obesity, diabetes, cholesterol levels, allergies, working parent households, religous beliefs and many other factors not present in the 1960's. In addition, the current act doesn't contain any standards for so-called "snack-line" foods such as brand name items, fast food chain selections, sodas and marketing gimmicks.
The good news is the USDA and the government are accepting the public's comments on the reauthorization of this act, but the comment period ends very soon - October 15, 2008. I understand this email is reaching you during the busiest time, right at the beginning of a new school year. However, I am only asking for a moment of your time to pass the word along to your fellow colleagues, the schools and their PTAs and the food service department.
For those who are limited on time, simply visit the website I provided below and enter your comments. The website address:
A basic set of comments are as follows (please feel free to cut and paste these comments into the comments section if you wish!):
- Increase funding for school meals and provide incentives for schools to offer healthier foods.
- Increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Improve nutrition standards for school meals so they align with the most recent dietary guidelines.
- Establish standards for food sold in schools outside of the school meals programs such as that sold at snack bars and cafeteria a la carte lines.
Thank you kindly for your time, I wish you a wonderful 2008-09 school year! Regards,
(the eco 'burban mom)
Friday, August 29, 2008
The federal government and the USDA wants your opinion and is accepting public comments on the reauthorization of this act, but you have to comment by October 15, 2008.
So, what do we want?
We request the USDA to start to make changes by doing the following:
- Increase funding for school meals and provide incentives for schools to offer healthier foods.
- Increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Improve nutrition standards for school meals so they align with the most recent dietary guidelines.
- Establish standards for food sold in schools outside of the school meals programs such as that sold at snack bars and cafeteria a la carte lines.
What can you do?? Well, it's very simple. Simply log on to this site and enter your comments which will be reviewed by the USDA. Has speaking up ever been so simple?? I think not! And, if you're really pressed for time, simply highlight, copy and paste the bolded text above and place it into the comments section of the site.
Please don't delay, you only have until October 15th, 2008. Pass this along, tell your friends, post it at your school, spread the word through your PTA or neighborhood. Your children will thank you!
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
My phone rings while I am in the airport on my way to LA. (Sorry, Arduous, I was only there for a whole 19 hours, not enough time to swing by to pick up that futon!) I look at my cell and see it's my mother.
Hey hon, I know you were bummed that you didn't get any peaches while you were up north visiting us, so guess what? I am bringing you some, I'm on my way home now! And, next weekend? I am buying a bushel to share with you and your sister! Doesn't that sound just yummy?
Oh geez, how do I tell my mother I spend my entire Saturday last weekend elbow deep in peach juice, peach pits, peach skins and peaches? And, I can't stand to look at another peach at this moment? Well, it's my mother, so if you knew her you would understand that you just don't. Like I said, you don't look a gift peach in the pit. All peaches are good peaches, yummy peaches and will be delicious this winter, regardless of the fact I will probably experience a little peach RAGE while making peach jam this weekend.
Even though I am on my way to the other side of the country, I call my husband to give him "peach storage and ripening" instructions and a warning that the mom-tornado is blowing through town. More peaches, he says? What are you going to do with them? I don't know I say, but for the love of god, don't say a WORD to my mother that I already am sick of peaches, you don't want to hurt her feelings! OK, he says gamely, I will take care of the peaches.
I arrived home last night (this morning?!?) about 2:00 a.m. to the smell of ripening peaches on my kitchen counter. And, you know what? They actually smelled delicious!