Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Living La Vida Local!

I am gearing up for Blue Collar Crunch's first ever challenge (one of my first wholehearted attempts at completing a challenge!) which starts tomorrow and I am really looking into not only eating organic, but locally as well. After reading Greenpa's post on hunger in the modern world, I almost felt sick to my own stomach and I realize that eating the way we had been eating is just wrong.

The last 6 months or so we have been making changes, replacing common food items with organics or those with less packaging, but that was simply dipping my toe into the kiddie pool. Not that I am throwing out any of the food in the pantry. It's there, it's going to expire at some time and it needs to be eaten and most certainly not thrown in the trash. So - I visited Local Harvest for some ideas on local food sources that I can use to replace what needs replenishing.

It's a little early for farmer's markets here in Michigan. It was a whopping 27 degrees last night with a chance of snow, so I am still going to have to rely on a conventional Trader Joe's for some organic produce, eggs and dairy. However, I found a unique company not but 20 miles from my home called La Vida Local. They source local food, coffee and beauty items from right here in our own state and will even arrange delivery right to my doorstep! I didn't even know that there was a mill 30 minutes from my house milling their own organic flours and cake mixes. It's like a whack on the forehead. All this time, buying a cake mix from Oklahoma City, when there is a better alternative right in my backyard! And, given the rotten economy in our state, I could actually support another struggling family, just like us? Well, whack me again, why don't you. I think I deserve it! But not after this month! Whatever I need will be carefully thought out, researched and purchased with Greenpa's post in mind!

Monday, April 28, 2008

To Do List - Old Habits Die Hard

Ending my addiction to the paper towel is on my list. This is a shameful one... While I recycle every teeny shred of paper, paperboard, glass, plastic and aluminum that crosses my path (occasionally I even pick through other people's trash!), I just can't seem to stop using paper towels. Yesterday we were finally pulled out the last roll of paper towels from the jumbo-sized, plastic wrapped, (sorry, FakePlasticFish!) Costco-purchased, hulking paper towel monster hiding in my basement. So, I figure it's time to start cutting back. Maybe, just maybe, I think if I buy the recycled version of the paper towels - albeit at a higher price - maybe I might start considering using LESS of them. That's the first step, right? Cutting back? And, they're recycled, so it's slightly better than where I was before. So, I bought a three-pack of 100% recycled paper towels from Trader Joe's. The paper towel monster in my basement is no more. Once I learn to use less, I am hoping to find an alternative that I can live with to reduce my usage even further. Maybe I can challenge myself to one roll per week? Or even per month? Time will tell, but I am on my way!

Ahhh.... challenges, challenges

I have joined two challenges this month. One easy, one kinda hard. Green Bean is asking us all to do something really simple - read a great green book. CHECK! I just got an email notice from my local library and my copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle has finally been returned (thanks to whomever has been reading it for the last 4 MONTHS!!) so there is challenge #1. Thanks, Grean Bean for reminding us to read something other than "Click Clack Moo" every night!

Now... challenge #2 is a little trickier. Blue Collar is asking us to consider rethinking our food choices in her Diet For Global Hunger Action. I joined up because eating healthier food, meaning real food, not processed items that really aren't meant to be that freakin' orange, blue or yellow is really just plain common sense. But, Blue Collar is taking a step further... How are our food choices causing a food crisis for other regions of the world? Can we make small steps to eat locally, choose non-processed items, eat your correct caloric intake and maybe reduce a little of the bulge around the middle while doing so? And will this reduce our impact enough to make sure there is more food for more regions of the world? I think so, but it's going to take some revisions to the grocery list and a bunch of people to jump on board with Blue Collar's challenge. I'm ready, but telling my 4 baseball playing boys that smurf-blue Gatorade really doesn't exist in nature is going to be a tough sell. However, I bought everyone a shiny new Sigg today, so maybe they will be distracted by the new toy long enough not to notice the tap water inside?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I've Done it! - CFL Lighting

The switch to CFL lighting has been on my "I've Done It" list for awhile because the majority of bulbs in our house have been switched. However, since throwing away an incandescent before it life cycle has been completed 100% would just be plain wasteful, I still have a few left. My older boy's room has been short one bulb (it burned out days ago) and I have been waiting for the other to follow suit so I can replace both - and today I got the chance. Now I have replaced both and brought my CFL total up to 15!

To Do List - COFFEE!

And on to another To-Do List Topic - Coffee... So, we tried this organic and fair trade coffee from Trader Joe's and surprisingly, it was quite good! I have tried one other brand which was terrible and had a mysterious tree bark flavor I just couldn't choke down so I wasn't quite sure how this would go down. But, it was good! Good enough to compel me to stay away from the Starbucks on the way to the office. If you count bringing my daily fix in my reusable thermos, I am well ahead in my green-game! I have one last shipment of coffee coming from my favorite Florida company - Boca Java. We adore this coffee, but our membership will have to go on hold until they add an organic, fair trade product to their line up. I am going to email them with the suggestion, so hopefully it won't be too long! Until then, Trader Joe's you have my coffee dollars!

Update: I received a response from Boca Java! According to the company they recently released an organic Peruvian Roast that is available to members only (me!). I guess I won't have to stop buying my Boca Java after all, but the Trader Joes will certainly do in a pinch! It pays to speak up and email or call the company, you never know what you will find out or inspire a company to change. One person can truly make a difference!

Friday, April 18, 2008

To Do List - Less Grass, Less Water

Here is a topic on a recent addition to my To-Do list. Less grass = Less water. While we don't really water our lawn, we still feel like grass isn't the best use of our property. (However, being this is suburbia, I am pretty sure my underground sprinkler-happy neighbors must love my crispy brown dormant-ness come August!) I also live on a lake, so I am concerned about letting run off, soil and other mystery items wind their way into the lake. My goal last year was less grass and more native plants, grasses and trees. I accomplished much less than half of what I intended to change, so I added this back onto my list. Why is it that the to-do list is always longer than the I've done it list? So, when I saw this article from Low Impact Living in my inbox, I was intrigued.

Creating a "rain garden" using redirected water run off from roofs, hills and driveways is appealing. Not only because this would be an area of the yard that would be converted from grass to native plants, but because it would use water directly from a source other than the hose. Interesting, much easier than a rain barrel and prettier too! And, Low Impact Living breaks the process of building a rain garden down into easy to do steps, so no excuses! Make a rain garden today!

Take Back the Filter Campaign

Awhile back we switched to a Brita filter / pitcher system and non-leaching waterbottles for all 6 of us. Not only are we keeping plastic bottles out of the house and out of the waste management process, but we are using our regular old tap water right from our well. I thought I was doing a good thing for the environment and saving a little money, right? When I read this from burbanmom and then this from fakeplasticfish, I felt a little less green. Why would a company, such as Brita (now owned by Clorox) recycle their filters in Europe and ignore those of us here in the States? Shame, shame, shame on them. So, I signed the petition, thanks to burbanmom, and now plan to send back my filters to fakeplasticfish, who has had the gumption to create the Take Back the Filter Campaign to return all of these wasteful items right back to Clorox all at once. These ladies really know how to make a statement, so please sign the petition and send back your filters. It's easy and quick, I promise!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Digger the Dalmatian

Remember when I said I had landscaping and flowers I really was proud of? Turns out Digger (a.k.a Tahoe) the 10 month old Dalmatian really thinks they're special too. Yes, Digger is a nickname for his new favorite hobby... So, I am in need of an eco-friendly way to keep this dirt happy dalmatian OUT of the dirt! Greening the dogs is one of the things on my list, but I just figured that would mean food, treats and poop-disposal... not ground treatments. Today I tried Cayenne sprinkled in the "dig-zone". LOTS of Cayenne. No luck keeping the dog way from the blue fescue grass, but my landscaping sure does smell tasty! What is an green girl to do? We don't even use chemicals to rid our lawn of the moles, grubs and various other critters, so I won't be using any of those mystery sprays you find at the local pet mega store. Any great home remedies or should I just give up and buy The Dog Whisperer Book? We certainly aren't getting rid of Digger anytime soon!

Monday, April 7, 2008

How does your garden grow?

I have always had a pretty good looking landscaping and perennial garden, but haven't taken the dive into growing actual food. Here in the 'burbs with all the bunnies, squirrels and critters that have been displaced by rapidly growing housing developments and strip malls, gardening can be a close second to warfare. Chicken wire, fencing, wire mesh and chain link - you name it, it's not keeping the furry guys out of your green beans.

So, this year as one of my challenges, I am going to attempt a few small container gardens I can keep up close and personal to my back door. I found the Sean Conway Organic veggie seeds at Target and picked up some green beans, carrots, lettuce and lavender. If I can make this work, I might spring for the tomatoes and basil too! In the next few days I plan to find some organic gardening soil and re-purpose some flower pots to become veggie pots. Pictures and more to come!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

To Do List - The Plastic Bag Habit

I want to be free of the plastic bag habit. But, it's hard. It's retraining my weak, retail brain-washed self to re-think what I am doing. For so long this suburban mom has jumped in the van, drove like a mad woman to the closest Target to park, run in and grab the 2 things the kids MUST have for tomorrow's school project, baseball game, sleepover - fill in the blank here for today's crisis - needs and get home with just enough time to make dinner.

First, I need to stop the habit of needing things, but more on that later. But, as a close second I need to retrain my brain to think about the plastic bags. Oh, sure, I think about my bags for groceries when I head to Trader Joe's, I think about my Baggu totes (more on them later too!) when I head to Target. My entire plan was foiled last week when I had to make one additional stop at the sporting goods store for new track shoes and shoe laces for one of the boys.

I walked out of there with a.plastic.bag. A PLASTIC bag. I was so upset at that bag, I mean I was pouting about one plastic bag. I did reuse the bag for a kid's lunch the next week (my habitual lunchbox-forgetter got this one!) but still, I think about the one bag. So, here is a tip, Baggu Bags. I bought the 6-pack around the holidays, and kindly gave two to my sister and two to my mother (not even sure if they are using them - ahem!) and kept two for myself. Apparently two is not enough. Now - these bags aren't your fancy "I am not a plastic bag" designer glorified purses. These great little guys come with a pouch and fold up neatly into a square and really do fit in your purse. So - you will use them! When I bought mine - it was solid colors only, which was fine, the peacock blue and fuchsia are gorgeous! But, now they come in stripes. Of course, I am participating in the crazy Crunchy Chicken's "Buy Nothing Challenge" so I am making do without some new ones, but for those of you without some yummy reusable totes that are actually affordable - Baggu is for you! Seriously - six bags are a whopping $38 total. If you buy the striped ones, let me know, I would love to see what they actually look like in person!

Friday, April 4, 2008

A good first step!

Decline all those catalogs that keep arriving over and over and over AGAIN! I shop for just about everything online these days. Beats dragging 4 boys to the mall, just to find out they don't have my size or favorite color. So, why are they sending me catalogs?

Try using Catalog Choice - it took me under 10 minutes to unsubscribe from ALL of the ones I didn't want and saved countless trees, ink and gasoline in trucks to deliver them!

A place to start

Looking for a way to get started? There are tons of magazines, blogs and companies out there to get you going on your green mission. A one-stop for me is Green Mom Finds - you can find green products, sign up for a green newsletter and find a list of other green bloggin' mommas. Of course, there is usually a great green give-away too! Check it out:

So... now I've gone and done it

Yes, I've gone and done it. Start a blog I mean... And, it's green. I wasn't always green and I'm not really a green as I should be, but I'm trying. That's what this little project is all about. Chronicling the life of one suburban family trying to make small steps each day to live life a little healthier, greener and happier. 4 boys, 1 husband, 2 dogs and 1 lean, green eco-burban momma. Sort of. Like I said, we're trying.

Don't get me wrong - it's not like I have been doing this forever. Look at my lists! I traded in the SUV, bought some organic milk and actually dusted off my recycling bin not too long ago myself! And then it just snowballed from there...

So, this blog is for all the suburban moms who want to get with it, go green and get healthy for their families and the planet. Clean out that recycle bin, fill it with gatorade bottles and starbucks cup sleeves and let's go "greening" together. That's all it takes, one small step today, another one tomorrow and so on... Each day I will post a new topic for thought, a new challenge or a simple idea that you too can do to "green" your life!