CSAs: Farming for city folk!

One of my greatest memories as a kid was summers spent gardening and growing at our school farm.

A local farm, outside of the city, rented a portion of their land to the school district and students could then rent a plot for a whopping $5!  They gave you the seeds, the tools, the water… you provided the work.  I just remember it being so, so rewarding (and let me tell you, I cultivated one serious vegetable garden!).  My mom and I often had what we called “Garden Dinners” that were strictly the veggies I had grown and I had so much excess we gave away a ton of produce too… I was very popular with the neighborhood parents!  And let me also tell you, since they were fresh and pesticide- and herbicide-free, they were AMAZING!

Even if you’re a city dweller or suburbanite, have no room for a garden, no time for a garden, no desire to garden, you can still reap the benefits of wonderful fresh produce through your local CSA.

CSAs are “community supported agriculture”.  In a nutshell, it’s a partnership between a farm operation and community individuals who support the growing/production of food.  Members “purchase” a share of the harvest and are usually on a system of weekly delivery or pick-up of fruits and vegetables (and sometimes, dairy and meat).

If this type of commitment isn’t for you, you can also consider local farmer’s markets.  By supporting local farms, you will not only be offered the freshest, organic harvests but you will be one step further in your pursuit of being eco, because your organics won’t have the carbon footprint of shipping and transportation from some foreign grown produce.

Considering the time of year it may feel strange to be thinking about next summer’s harvest (especially if you live in a northern climate, like me! —  it’s SNOWING… a lot!… unseasonably early!) but believe me, many CSAs are filling up now for 2009, so don’t wait if you want to give it a try.

To find a CSA in your area, you can check Local Harvest or Biodynamics.

If you want to locate a local farmer’s market, you can also check another area of Local Harvest or the Farmer’s Market site.

And if you have a lot of extra produce, feel free to invite me over for a “Garden Dinner!”

“Mom the Plumber”: the green way

Friday is grocery store day.  As usual, I asked my husband about any requests and he called down from upstairs, “Yea.  Drano.  Bathroom sink is clogged again!”

Oooo.  Drano = chemicals.  I can’t go there again!

So, I “Googled” before the trip and found a green remedy that I wanted to give a try.   Drano wasn’t added to the list, but baking soda and white vinegar was.

That evening I gave it a go.  A half cup of baking soda went in first, followed by a cup of hot vinegar.  It turned out to be a great science experiment for the kids too!  Our son came in, holding his nose and said “eeew!  Watt dat ‘mell?!?!”  (Turns out they sound pretty cute with a clamped nose and the hot vinegar isn’t high on their list of yummy smells!)  Our daughter joined us as we poured in the vinegar.

It started bubbling and foaming and working its magic.  Our kids responded with a collective “Keeeewl!” – noses still plugged!  It was amazing… and gross.  Brown slimy gick started rising to the top of the vinegar and I started cringing at the nastiness that had built up down there, but I was glad it was apparently working.

After the vinegar drained, we did it all over again…(more “Keeeewls!”).  After that, I plunged the drain, ran some hot water, and lo and behold…clear drain!  Victory!.. and NO CHEMICALS!

Turns out this is a great practice to just regularly clean and maintain the drain, to even prevent clogs. This was also a great learning experience for me.  There are often green solutions for everyday problems and all it takes is a bit of legwork to help you find an alternative to try.

So next time your drain gets clogged, don’t Drano… just baking soda & vinegar-o!

“America Recycles Day” is November 15! Get to it!

Saturday is “America Recycles Day”… a day that ‘encourages more people to join the movement toward creating a better natural environment by recycling and buying recycled products’ and ‘promotes the social, environmental and economic benefits of recycling.’

A very worthwhile cause, I’d say!

As the Recycling/Environmental Programs Chair at our daughter’s school I’m promoting this great day by encouraging the kids to submit their best recycling tips and the favorite ways their families recycle.   I’m going to compile all of their great ideas and turn it into a recycling newsletter that will be sent home to each family.  Some will even win cool prizes, like a recycled pencil bag from Terracycle! The response has been overwhelming!  It’s so exciting to see their enthusiasm.  Kids rule!

So, to get back to the basics of this day… let’s remember WHY we recycle:

  • to reduce pollution
  • to save energy
  • to help the environment
  • to save natural resources
  • to keep trash out of landfills

And here are some things to think about …

  1. PLASTIC– it can take 20 years for a plastic bag to biodegrade and 250 years for a plastic cup!  And if every American household recycled just one of every 10 plastic bottles, it would keep 200 million pounds of plastic out of landfills each year!
  2. PAPER – it accounts for HALF of what is sent to landfills… and it’s recyclable! Plus, recycling one ton of paper would save enough energy to power an average American home for five months!
  3. ALUMINUM – recycling just one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a computer for 3 hours.  Last year cans that were NOT recycled and went to landfills were valued at $600 million! (let me go get my shovel and start digging!)
  4. GLASS – a bottle in a landfill would take more than 4000 years to decompose, but glass never “wears out” and can be recycled forever!

Sadly, 75% of “trash” is recyclable, but only 25% actually gets recycled.

So get recycling, increase your recycling, start someone you know recycling… just get to it!… because “America Recycles” and that’s a club all of us should want to belong to!

Breaking the drug (in the toilet) habit

I rarely (and I do mean rarely) ever take medications, pain relievers, antibiotics or anything FOR anything. That’s just me, but that’s not everyone.

I love my in-laws dearly, but they literally have a ‘lazy-susan’ of medications in a huge cupboard.  Some are undoubtedly necessary, but I guarantee that many are expired and of no use to anyone.  The problem with this is what many people typically do with their expired or unused medications.

Ahh, the flush-factor.  Bad habit.

Many people just dump them in the toilet and flush them.  While this may seem to be a likely option (over throwing them in the trash and having them found by animals or [shudder] children, or sending them to trash dumps and having them absorb into the ground) they’re creating another danger.  They’re being found in our tap water, in increasing amounts, because most water treatment plants are unable to filter them out.  Tests are turning up antibiotics, birth control hormones, anti-depressants and all kinds of nasty stuff.

Add to the problem – there aren’t a lot of options just yet.  I’ve heard about grinding them up, putting them in coffee grounds or kitty litter in a sealed container and putting them in the trash, but that just adds trash in non-biodegradable containers to landfills!

So, let me make a few recommendations:

  • Contact your local pharmacy.  More and more of them are accepting old and unused medications and properly disposing of them. I’d like to see more of them step up too.
  • Check Earth 911. Enter “unused medications” in their “Start recycling” search.
  • Consider a donation of unused and unexpired meds to The Starfish Project.  They will go to help HIV-positive individuals in Nigeria.  They accept a variety of antibiotics, antivirals, and tons of non-ARV medications, and pay your shipping costs too.

I guess we just need to consider whatever we can do to keep them out of rivers, lakes and our water supply.  They’ll find their way “back to us”… in our foods, drinking water, etc.

I doubt Mr. Fish and Mrs. Duck need our old birth control… I know our kids don’t!

The “dirty dozen”… 12 necessary organics

Back at the beginning of MomGoesGreen, I talked about where to start with organic foods and even ways to get your grubby produce cleaner. And as family budgets get tighter, we all find ourselves looking for places to make cutbacks.

If you find yourself in this predicament, you’re not alone.  Sales of organic foods have been dropping for this exact reason, as reported by Environmental Leader.  Sales were up 20% at this time last year… it’s now only about 4%.  Go figure!

My husband bought me a book called To Buy or Not To Buy Organics.  It’s all about organic food, the “what’s” and the “why’s”, and almost more than I needed to know.  But let me boil it down for ya!

Not all organic produce is necessary, so you can choose only the necessary column if that’s what fits your budget.  This is the “dirty dozen” (because they are more likely to hang onto pesticides after harvest… ooh, tasty!).  DO buy these organically grown:

–    Strawberries          –    Celery
–    Peppers                –    Apples
–    Spinach                –    Pears
–    Cherries                –    Grapes
–    Peaches                –    Raspberries
–    Nectarines             –    Potatoes

So there you have it!  Those are the nasty ones to avoid.

Memorize, shop, eat and be merry… and pesticide-free!