Give them your tired, your poor, your burnt CFLs…

I took a little bit of heat for recommending CFLs (compact fluorescent lightbulbs) to readers.  Some people really object to them because of their mercury content.

They do contain some mercury (about four milligrams – old thermometers used to contain 500 milligrams – yikes!) and we do need to be more careful not to break them.  I’ll take this opportunity to say, if you DO break one, go here for proper clean up instructions.  But I still believe the switch to CFLs is a necessary step that all households need to take… I won’t change my view on that.

Enter: Home Depot

I can’t believe I just heard about this(!) but Home Depot recently started a program dubbed their National CFL Bulb Recycling Initiative.  All you need to do is bring your burned out, UN-broken CFLs to a Home Depot location, hand them to a store associate in customer service and they’ll turn them over to an environmental management company so they are properly disposed and won’t cause contamination.

This is such good news, because there are 1,973 Home Depot locations in the United States and 75% of households are within a 10 mile radius of one of their stores.

Bravo, Home Depot!

Now, not only do we have an opportunity to make the right choice in purchasing CFLs but we can also be guilt-free afterward.

So, step number one: don’t drop the damn bulb! :) Step two: five years from now, when they FINALLY burn out(!) take them for a drive to Home Depot and say ’thank you very much!’

“Wasted” at the County Fair

Ahhh…county fairs.  A slice of Americana that just drives me insane.

My dad called me the other day and wanted to take the kids, so I agreed…to make him happy.  My friend called me on the way there, and when I told her where I was going, she said “You?  At a fair?” and proceeded to laugh hysterically.

I know some people love fairs for various reasons.  I shudder because I think about the horribly unhealthy foods, the germs and dirt (our feet were black by the time we left!), the poor animals going to slaughter…(insert frowny/pouty face here!)… and the waste, waste, WASTE!

I almost walked in with more optimism than ever because there was a sign posted at the entry that said:  “The Fair has gone green!” Whoa! Quite cool.

Little did I know that the sign meant there would be about four very small can & bottle recycling bins around the entire fairgrounds.  There were, however, HUGE trash cans about every 25 feet.  Not exactly what I would call green, would you?

Green, to me, would mean tons more recycling containers and vendors that were required to take a little more care in the serving items they choose…can anyone say NO STRYROFOAM?!?!?  It’s so discouraging.  I also saw people grabbing stacks of napkins, tossing recycling in the trash, dropping trash on the ground and just being all-around wasteful.

I’m getting to the point where I want to stop going to places like this that don’t seem to care at all…even though they claimed that they’ve gone green!  This is much to my kids’ dismay, because if that actually happened, I think I would be boycotting a whoooole lot of places they love.  (I have already put an eternal ban on circuses… HATE THEM!  Not for ‘green reasons’, but I just can’t stand the thought of animals being carted around the country in small trailers, and they are either penned up, practicing or performing.  I adore elephants and wonder how anyone could ever be surprised when one occasionally flips out and goes on a rampage…hmmm…maybe it doesn’t like its JOB!)

Anyhow, it just reminded me that we have so far to go.  Baby steps are okay, but for pete’s sake…if you say you’re going green…then GO GREEN!  Don’t make big claims, make signs announcing it and then do the bare minimum, like they did at the fair.  Please.

My daughter looked at an overflowing trash can and said “Mommy, why would someone do that?”  I have no idea, honey…I have NO idea.

Don’t pack trash for lunch!

Well… it’s back-to-school time. Wait. (blink, blink.) I thought it was still June.

Unfortunately…no. I’ve been desperately working on getting in the school mode, but I’m just in such denial that my sweet “baby” girl is going to be gone, all day, five days a week!

We’ve had major discussions about lunchtime and what she would like me to pack. Our school is so-so on nutritious meals, but our daughter has chosen to be a “brown bagger.” However, that’s in name only because we’ve taken lots of steps to insure that she won’t be creating too much waste at lunchtime. In fact, an interesting little stat I found on Greenopia:  “An average kid using disposable lunch wrappers generates 67 pounds of waste per school year.”… YIKES!

So, to our “low-/no-waste” lunch plan.

Buy a lunchbox. There are so many cool ones to choose from, kids can certainly find one to love. Buy a reusable bottle and/or thermo. No matter what beverage you choose, it will accommodate…and there won’t be any disposable bottles/boxes to throw away later. No paper napkins. A quick stop at the dollar store and we have cloth napkins to last her a week. Buy a cheap set of silverware. No need to toss plastic in the trash daily. Or, if you use plastic, wash & reuse. NO Ziplocs or plastic baggies. Like I mentioned before, I bought a bunch of small containers for the kids’ foods and snacks, so these will accompany her to school each day!

I was concerned that within the course of weeks the containers, thermoses, etc. would get left behind at school and never find their way back to us, but I discovered a great product from Stuck On You. They are vinyl name labels that can be placed on all of these items and they are waterproof, microwave- and dishwasher-safe (so you won’t be replacing name labels with every washing!). Our daughter’s are pink with flowers and she LOVES them. They have tons of other great products too (labels, tags, and a great starter pack) if you want to check them out.

So, as I venture into a teary-eyed send-off to our daughter, I at least know that when the year ends, there won’t be 67 lbs. of trash in a local landfill with her name on it.

I (heart) Method!

Honestly!  I am lovin’ the laundry products…especially with my pretty new washing machine!!!

I’ve always envied my mother-in-law’s laundry because it smells absolutely incredible.  We used the exact same products (until I made new eco-choices), but somehow I could never duplicate that fab aroma. I always wondered if it has something to do with the washing machine or the dryer and how it scrubbed and tumbled the laundry.  Maybe?

Anyhow, back to my point.  Did I mention I love Method laundry products?!?!  They are so eco-friendly and come from a really green company. The items I’ve been trying lately are the detergent and softener infused dryer cloths.  The detergent is phosphate-free, bio-degradable and HE (high efficiency) for my new washer…but don’t give me a hard time about the dryer cloths.  They can be used twice and are actually compostable!  And they contain mainly renewable plant oils.

They really meet my eco-criteria, but above that….damn, they smell GREAT!  Both are “water lily + aloe.”  And they smell soooo good, I just want to chew on my laundry like a teething baby with a wet wash cloth!!!  (Was that too much information?)  I don’t know what it is, but besides being a very visual person, I appreciate my sense of smell and just like great smelling laundry…but with a consciousness too!

If anyone else has tried any of their products, I’d love to know what you think.  If not, warning….you, too, may want to gnaw on your laundry!

A battle in “Kitchen Stadium”

So the whole “dead washer” thing got me thinking about other washing… dishwashing.

For some reason, ever since my daughter was a baby, I have felt compelled to wash my kids’ dishes, cups, utensils, etc. by hand. I suppose my logic has to do with the feeling that when I scrub them by hand, I can insure they get really, really clean, and they don’t sit around in a dishwasher, picking up cooties from other stuff.  Yeah, may be ridiculous, but it’s made sense to me for the past 6-1/2 years!

So I set out to see how wasteful that really is.  Lo and behold, in my newest quest of dishwasher vs. hand-washing, I learned a lot.  So, here I am to share this with you too!…

First, and most compelling:  newer dishwashers use only half the energy, one-sixth the water and much less soap, compared to hand-washing.  The cleanliness factory also favors dishwashers (BAH! I’m wrong again!).

Just think about how much water you waste waiting for the right temperature when you’re hand- washing?! I was guilty of that, big time.  And my husband is NOTORIOUS for wandering around the kitchen, doing other things, while water is still running! (… that remains a small (huge) pet peeve of mine, dear husband!)

You can also make your process more eco-friendly by skipping the pre-wash cycle, only running full loads and skipping the heat dry (that ALONE, saves 50% of the energy use!).

I understand that there may be methods of hand-washing that use very small amounts of water.  I also know that, in order to get truly clean items out of the dishwasher, they do need a degree of cleaning and elbow-grease before they reach the dishwasher, but this should be done quickly and immediately, before all of the food gets dried on … (oh yummy! It’s that “cootie factor” I always feared!)

So, SHOCKER!  Appliance wins this battle!  I’m going to give so much hand-washing a break and try to use the appliance exclusively for a while and see how it goes.  “Dishwasher” is one of the ‘Mom titles’ I’m willing to give up.