Simple buying tip: Choose natural fabrics…(and WHY!)

grn teeSooo many green rules… and (for me, especially!)… only so much “brain space”!  Honestly.  Remembering and retaining all of the rules can be mind boggling.

Sometimes we may even waiver on a choice simply because it seems like it can’t possibly make that much of a difference.

Fabric choice is one of those, but think about this the next time you have a choice of clothing and fabrics:

  • Conventionally grown cotton involves fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, genetically modified seeds and approximately 25%(!) of the insecticides used on ALL crops WORLDWIDE! (yes… you heard it right… 25%!).  This should be especially disturbing when you consider that (because of the vastness of these crops) most of these chemicals are applied aerially (so no… don’t take any deep breaths if you’re in the vicinity either.)
  • Bamboo and hemp fabrics are a great alternative too.  They are sustainable and grow rapidly.
  • Organic wool means that the sheep have been raised by organic standards…. a plus for animal lovers too!
  • Dyes contain harsh chemicals so look for fabrics that have been colored with non-toxic vegetable dyes instead of those chemically tinted.

Maybe your “color chart” says that green “isn’t for you”, but when it comes to fabric choices, green is for everyone!

Making sense of paper content…

recyc ppr 2The other day my dear friend, Jenn, contacted me looking for some advice about purchasing paper. Knowing that all of the information spewed on the package of  a simple ream of paper – content percentages, certifications, etc. – can get overwhelming, I decided to share my answer with everyone and clear up the confusion.

It’s first important to understand what all of the potentially confusing terms mean, so here goes…

  • Recycled content – simply means that the paper has been made from some recycled content that has been reprocessed.  The important thing to look for is the percentage.  The claim of “recycled content” can mean that a mere 1% is recycled, so don’t make any assumptions based on the use of these words… you are looking for a quantifiable percentage.
  • Post-consumer – this paper was previously a consumer item that has been recycled into a new post-consumer paper fiber.
  • Pre-consumer – this paper was previously a by-product of paper manufacturing that has been recycled into a new pre-consumer paper fiber.
  • Forest Stewardship  Council (FSC) certified paper – this certification simply assures that the paper is made from new fiber that comes from a sustainably managed forest.  This does not mean it has any recycled content unless it says so.save tree

So, which one do you choose?

Here are my thoughts… choose the paper with the highest percentage of post- and/or pre-consumer content.  Yes, 100% is absolutely the best. You may also find a combination of both, and whether it is post-consumer or pre-consumer, it doesn’t matter… it has been recycled regardless and the only difference is where the recycled content originated.

Given the choice of “50% post-consumer” or “30% post-consumer/30% pre-consumer”, go for the 30/30 blend because the combination actually means that 60% of the content is recycled.  Add the percentages together for the percent of total recycled content.

FSC certified sounds lovely but, in reality, it’s still new paper… meaning trees (albeit from a sustainable forest) have been cut for its production.  However, if you cannot buy 100% recycled content, it is definitely better to choose something with the FSC certification (so you at least know the forest is sustainable) and with at least some percentage of post- or pre-consumer content.

Confused yet? 🙂

Bottom line, it’s the total percentage of recycled content that matters… the higher, the better. If your wallet (or your company’s budget) can afford it, 100% recycled content is 100% the best.

Paint your Valentine’s Day red, pink and GREEN!

valent greenAhh… the holiday of romance!

Valentine’s Day is the day to share your feelings and express your love to the special ones in your life, but if you want to share some love with the environment and add a little bit of “green” to the occasion too, consider these wisest of choices:

  • Cards – did you know that the purchase of Valentine’s Day cards ranks #2 just behind Christmas?!?  One BILLION cards per year, in fact!  So consider buying only cards printed on recycled paper or paper alternatives (hint: the backs of cards reveal their content).
  • Chocolates – always a favorite, make sure those you purchase are organic and fair-trade so you’re assured that there hasn’t been destruction and risky/unfair practices used in order to give your beloved a sweet treat.choc organic
  • Flowers – buy locally-grown flowers and those you know haven’t been doused with harsh pesticides and chemicals that are harmful to the environment and growers, or have been flown in from some other region of the globe. When the recipient takes a whiff, you want to be sure the scent is pure sweetness and it isn’t covered in chemicals and preservatives from its long, long trip to your florist.  Also consider live, locally-grown plants as another option.
  • Body products – pick products that are made with organic & natural ingredients and minerals (like Kiss My Face), instead of those containing harsh additives, colorings and chemicals.
  • Jewelry – forget the mass-produced jewelry found in commercial jewelry stores and instead opt for something that is locally-made or a choice that helps others through your purchase (see Hands Up Not Hand Outs to see exactly what I mean!)
  • Soy and beeswax candles – avoid pollutants and toxins expelled by many candle products and choose only soy or beeswax options.
  • Create something – no one ever said you needed to buy a thing to express your love, so make a card, write a poem, create something special and it will often mean more than anything you could buy, and you often need look no further than your own home!flowers3
  • Wine – choose organic and/or locally-produced wines.  They do exist, and all you need to do it ask!
  • Organic dinner – dine in and make a completely organic dinner.  When you select the ingredients, you know that there is only “goodness” contained in your meal.

Ahh, yes… Valentine’s Day. The holiday of love… just make sure your expression of “red-hot love” has a little bit of “green” intertwined too… what you do after that, well… you’re all on your own!

Simple energy saving tip… “monitor” your monitor!

monitr fshIf you’re reading this you probably have a computer and chances are, you use it often…

Chances are also high that you often leave your computer running even when it’s not being actively used.  Most of us know about unplugging unused appliances, putting power strips to work and the energy waste of “phantom power” use, however, you might not know this little tidbit:

FACT: Computer monitors consume substantially more energy than your hard drive.

Now ask yourself how often you walk away from your computer and let it sit idle while you temporarily move onto a different task…  you’re in the middle of some information search or project and you don’t necessarily want to shut it down. I know I’ve been a major offender in this area… whether it’s running off to pick up kids at school, cook dinner, fold laundry, or some other glamorous mom duty(!).

So now that you know the little known fact, “monitor your monitor”Hit the button and shut it off when it’s not in use, or put your laptop in rest mode… nothing will be lost and you’ve conserved energy.

Though your “fish aquarium” screen saver can be quite entertaining, you’ll be much greener if you just let the little fishies rest for a while…

A water conserving mom fighting a water bill nightmare…

Usually I’m here offering suggestions and solutions.  Today, I’m just looking for answers.

faucet runningFirst, the backstory:  We are, without doubt, a water conserving family.  We have water efficient appliances, have taught our kids to conserve and have put all of the best water saving tips in place.  Our usual water bill runs between $45-$65 per quarter.  The accompanying sewer usage fee costs us a fairly equal rate per quarter, so for this time of year, I was expecting a bill of just under a hundred dollars.

The bill arrived. (Hold onto your hats:) $260!!!  Did I choke?  Yes… I did.  (And I also swore profusely!)

After 57 minutes(!) of waiting for a City of Cleveland Division of Water customer service representative they put my bill “on hold” and schedule a service appointment.

Yesterday the tech arrived, ran all the tests, said everything was in working order  – no leaks, no problems detected –  and that he would report his findings to the office.  I was advised to call tomorrow for a “decision”.  What EXACTLY does THAT mean?… a “decision”?water mtr

The interesting thing is that the tech also assessed our previous 16 months of bills and commented “Wow, your family really IS efficient!” According to him, a family of four typically uses just over 3 MCF units per quarter (this is the measurement of usage in cubic feet per thousand).  He also says, when they are teenagers, it normally raises to 4!  We have been consistently at, or just below, 2… yes, 2!

So what gives? Honest answer… I have no idea.  And what are we supposed to do?  The curious thing… my mother-in-law’s last quarter bill?  $500+!  This quarter?  $1200!  WHAT is going on with the Cleveland Division of Water?  How do you battle what they claim is true when you simply know it cannot be?

Has this ever happened to you?  What is the solution?  Because this time, I have absolutely NO ANSWERS…