There ARE alternatives to Ziplocs!

storge bowlsI do NOT buy Ziploc baggies… ever. Okay, one exception:  when I had to buy them to complete our daughter’s list of “required” school supplies.  I wanted to wear dark glasses and a hood because I felt like I was going to be detained and questioned by the “Green Police” at any moment for abandoning my pledge to headquarters!

But I am currently also annoyed by “The Biggest Loser” and the way they keep pimping Ziplocs.  I understand product placements and the sponsorship, but it’s as if you can’t have food without them!  The incessant use of Ziplocs is unnecessary.

There ARE alternatives to Ziplocs and the non-biodegradable trash they create:

  • Reusable containers are a green mom’s best friend.  Invest in some!
  • For those concerned about the plastic, glass bowls with lids or stainless steel containers do wonders.  They come in all shapes and sizes!
  • Aluminum foil is recyclable and is great for wrapping tons of food items.  Buy a roll!ziplc storage
  • Salvage some glass jars and turn them into storage.  Reuse those plastic containers from yogurt, cottage cheese, etc. and do the same.
  • If you must, must, must use baggies, consider the new Ziploc evolve products.  They are made from a new resin blend using 25% less plastic, manufactured using approximately 50% renewable wind energy and packaged in a 100% recycled paperboard carton, with a minimum of 35% post-consumer content.  A step in the right direction, but if you must use them, wash and REuse them!

(I personally think that the new Ziploc evolve baggies are just a way to suck “greenies” like us back to their storage bags but like I said… “if you MUST…”…)

Bottom line is: there are better ways!  Try it… and let’s “bag the baggie!”

Hey, Room Mom!… Green your children’s classroom party.

class prtyMy list of duties just got longer…  drumroll, please… I am now the Head Room Mom (read:  “Lead Party Queen”!) for our daughter’s 2nd grade class!  She is absolutely thrilled and while I’m excited too, I’m also simultaneously worried.

I know what parties essentially “mean”….  things like lots of trash, waste and “un-environmental” activities.  It’s fairly easy to control what goes on for a party in your own home but this is another situation entirely, yet I believe there are still plenty of things I can keep in check.

  1. Ask volunteering parents to send in bulk foods instead of individually wrapped items. One big box of Goldfish and a big bowl from home is far better than 25 individual packages!
  2. Same goes for drinks… large containers and cups over a bunch of individual boxes or bottles, then recycle the container and compost the pak
  3. Opt for supplies using materials that are less harmful:  Paper over plastic, please!  Paper plates, cups and napkins can be composted, but reusable products are even better.  I love the Party Pak from Kids Konserve.  Invest in this supply of party wares (plates, cups and utensils) and wash and reuse them for every party.  (Get 15% off, now through October 31, by entering: momgreen at checkout!)
  4. Skip plastic tableclothes.  Bring a fabric tablecloth from home and opt for laundering over plastic in the trash.  And borrow decorations from home and take them back afterward… simple as that!
  5. Make your arts and activities eco-friendly.  Consider decorating little totes or lunch bags so they have some usefulness after the party ends.
  6. Play games with supplies from home.  Or consider supplies that can be recycled, like a game of bingo.  You can print cards at dltk-cards and use edible “markers” (like M&Ms!) and recycle the cards afterward.
  7. Pass out goodies in paper bags instead of cellophane treat bags, and give extra thought to what goes inside.  Mounds of plastic will eventually wind up in the trash.
  8. Recycle and compost everything you can!

Sure, these little ideas won’t change the world but they will certainly help make sure that all of those “little partying feet” create a smaller footprint than would have been created otherwise!

Things you should know about recycling paper.

paper stckNot long ago I wrote a post about whether or not pizza boxes can be recycled.  I quickly realized that this is only scratching the surface of a topic that often leaves us scratching our heads.

So while we all likely understand the fundamentals of a paper recycling, there is also some uncertainty about the details.  Here are a few things you (may not, but) SHOULD know!

  • DO NOT let the paper get wet.  Since recyclers purchase paper by weight, the entire lot may get rejected if they see wet paper.  Check your weather before it goes to the curb unless you are certain the rain won’t get in!
  • No food! Dirty paper plates, napkins, paper towels, etc. are, unfortunately, trash… or should go to compost.  But please, not in the recycle bin – they will quickly cross contaminate the other contents.
  • Do not worry about little things like small paper clips, plastic envelope windows, staples, labels, metal envelope latches or even notebook spirals.  Unlike food matter, they separate easily in processing and can be removed from the batch.paper recyc
  • Watch the adhesives! Heavily glued (sticky) items can ruin batches of recycled paper.  Don’t toss in those “complimentary” address labels and other stickers.  Post-It Notes are fine but if an envelope has a heavy self-stick flap, tear it off first.
  • Allow tape in moderation. Some tape here and there won’t hurt, but if a box is wrapped in yards of shipping tape, remove it as best you can.  Paper tape is A-OK!
  • Don’t shred paper unless you must – most recyclers don’t like accepting shredded paper because it’s a challenge to sort.  If you are a “shredder”, contain it in a paper bag first (or it can be composed!).
  • Skip the heavy-dye, saturated papers with deep, dark colors or fluorescents.  It’s difficult to bleach them back to a usable form.
  • No plastic or wax coated papers (like paper cups), but glossy papers (like magazines) are acceptable.
  • Consider dropping your paper at a local paper retriever site (at schools, churches or other non-profits…like this service in my area). You can be assured that your paper is being recycled AND it can benefit an organization by helping them earn money.

Remember, the EPA estimates that 40% of solid waste in the U.S. is paper products… shameful!  But paper can actually be recycled up to seven times, and it is easier and cheaper to make pulp from recycled fibers than from wood… awesome!  And one more tidbit to share:

Each ton of recycled paper can save 17 trees… and those 17 saved trees can absorb a total of 250 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air each year!

I hope you never look at paper the same way again… paper recycling rules!

10 ways to green your laundry… (without a random sock!)

landry bsktLaundry… oh, laundry.  Just the thought makes me sigh.  It is probably one of my least favorite of all the home “duties”, but it’s also unavoidable.  Unless I want to send my husband and kids (and myself!) off with stinky, wrinkled clothes, it’s gotta happen!

There are plenty of habits that can make laundry time very eco-UNfriendly, so here are 10 simple ways to make laundry day a little greener:

  1. Make sure the laundry actually NEEDS to be done.  Stop the habit of putting on something for a few hours and then tossing it in the laundry basket.  If it can be reworn before a washing, hang it up or put it away immediately… and teach everyone else in the house the same good habit. (By the way, a great “wrinkle remover” is a simple spray bottle of water.  Mist the wrinkles, smooth by hand and hang to dry… it works!)
  2. Load to capacity.  Forget those mini-loads… wash only when you can fill the machine to capacity.  Also be sure to dry similar fabrics together so they dry in similar amounts of time.  (Towels and tees don’t dry at the same rate, so this will needlessly run the dryer extra long!)
  3. Choose eco-friendly detergents.  Skip the harsh ingredients in the most popular brands of detergents and, instead, choose those with biodegradable content made of plant or vegetable based ingredients (I’m a Method girl, by the way!).wshr & dryer
  4. Wash on warm/cold cycles.  Forget that the hot setting even exists (since 90% of the washer’s energy consumption comes from heating the water!).  In fact, if all U.S. households switched from hot/hot cycles to warm/cold, we could save energy comparable to 100,000 barrels of oil a day!
  5. Choose appropriate settings.  No need to put every load on an extended, hour-long wash.  If what’s inside isn’t heavily soiled, choose a shorter wash cycle.
  6. Skip the dryer sheets or use only those with natural ingredients and biodegradable fibers.  Better yet, use dryer balls… I recommend Wool Dryer Balls, to soften the fabric and speed the drying time.  Even white vinegar added during the washer’s rinse cycle can soften fabric.
  7. Use your auto-dry button! If your dryer has this setting, use it!  It will shut off when the contents are dry and you won’t continue to tumble already dry clothes for an extra 15 minutes!
  8. When weather or circumstance permits, consider hanging your laundry to dry.  It may sound very 1950s, but it’s actually very environment to skip all of that energy usage.  But when you are using the dryer, make sure the lint traps and vents are clean so the air properly circulates and you are drying most efficiently.
  9. When it comes time to replace a washer, choose a front-loading version.  They use 50-60% less water, 50% less energy to heat the water and have a greater capacity than top-loading versions.  Plus, because they spin faster, they extract more water from the laundry and this, in turn, reduces your dryer time.
  10. Batch your laundry.  Take advantage of the heat that’s already been generated and do a couple loads in a row.

You may or may not dread laundry as much as I do, but if you follow these simple tips, it’s will not only keep your laundry green and clean, it will keep your conscious free and clear!

A green mom blogger’s choice: laptop vs. desktop?

laptp compWell, last month my laptop died.  (RIP dear XPS, my beloved refurbished computer!) Not a pleasant experience if I want to keep this blog going, so I’ve resorted to borrowing my husband’s laptop in the meanwhile (and it’s not easy when he needs to keep borrowing it back!).

So he has finally said it’s time for Mom Goes Green to get a new computer of my very own.  Enter dilemma:  laptop vs. desktop.

I did my research, because I also want to make the greenest choice, and here is what I found:

  • Laptops use considerably less energy than desktop computers.  In some cases, the savings are somewhere between 50-80% less, depending on the model.  Energy savings = environmental choice. (winner: laptop)
  • Laptops have batteries, so they can actually utilize their own stored energy for use. (winner:  laptop)
  • Laptops are considerable smaller than desktops therefore, when it comes time for disposal, there is less electronic desktp comp“waste” and fewer parts to be recycled. (winner:  laptop)
  • The parts contained within laptops are harder to recycle and refurbish than desktop computer parts.  (winner: desktop)
  • Desktops typically last longer than laptops since laptops are more fragile and the mobility-factor often means a greater likelihood of damage and a shorter life.  Laptops are also more expensive to repair (e.g. $500 bucks to fix mine… augh!) and are therefore more likely to get discarded more frequently. (winner: desktop)
  • The toxic materials in desktops are much less than those in laptops (due to the batteries and other materials contained within the computer) so laptop disposal means more polluting toxins. (winner: desktop)

So there you have it.  As I see it, it’s a wash.  Choose what suits your needs.  There is no real environmental choice (unless you “go computer-less!”… something that’s unlikely for any of us!).