This Thursday, April 22, 2010, marks the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day! Created in 1970, it is a way to remind us to appreciate nature and this amazing planet we live on, and learn how to protect our environment and all of its inhabitants. While it is celebrated in the spring in the northern hemisphere, it is actually observed in the autumn in the southern hemisphere (both days being the exact “middle point” of the season).
This year, find a way to celebrate. Take notice of all that we HAVE to celebrate and no matter how small and insignificant your actions may seem, they matter… they add up… they make a difference…
Take action, talk about it, MAKE a difference… EVERY day should be Earth Day!
Ahh… 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.
- 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!
- 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!
To me, Thanksgiving has always felt like the holiday with the greatest “green potential”. There are no gifts, costumes, candy or extra, elaborate frills. It’s simply about family gatherings, feasting on the bounty of the season and giving thanks for everything we have. (Now didn’t that sounds like a Hallmark card!!!)
In all seriousness, everything from the decorations, to the food, to the clean-up can be exceptionally green.
Here are the things to keep in mind:
- Invitations – forgo the paper invitations and send Evites instead. If you need to mail invitations, look for those made of recycled paper.
- Decorations – in many cases, you need only walk into your own backyard: leaves, acorns and twigs can be turned into amazing arrangements. Combine them with colorful gourds, indian corn, squash and apples and you’ve just captured the season! Afterward, compost or add them back to nature.
- Food – visit your local farmer’s market for all of the most amazing produce. Go organic. Think acorn squash, sweet potatoes, corn, green beans, apple and pumpkin (pie!). And seek out an organic, hormone-free, steroid-free turkey (if it will be a part of your feast). Start now… call around… see who has what you need, reserve it and buy it.
- Drinks – serve organic wine or consider a local brew… or, if you’re lucky (like me!) and surrounded by local wineries, a local wine!
- Tableware and serveware – stop saving “the good dishes” and silverware! Use them! Glasses, cups and stemware? Get them out! Forget the disposable “anything”. You can even score inexpensive cloth napkins at any dollar store.
- Consider the temperature – ovens heat a house fairly quickly… and so do lots of people… so turn down the thermostat or, in warmer climates, keep ceiling fans circulating or windows open to keep the indoors comfortable.
- Recycle – that should go without saying, but just remember to make it happen. Cans, jars, containers, bottles, anything and everything possible.
- Don’t waste leftovers – keep only what you know your family will eat. Send the rest home with your guests. Start thinking about containers now (no styrofoam plates or plastic-wrap, please!). You can even ask guests to bring their own glass or ceramic dishware… why not?! And if you compost, toss in those food scraps.
- Clean-up – use your dishwasher, but make sure you fill it first. For the big jobs, you’ll need to use some elbow-grease, but be sure not to leave the tap running endlessly. And get out your green cleaners. You can get back to “shiny & clean” without harsh chemicals.
- Although it has nothing to do with being green… give thanks. Ask everyone at your table to share a thought. It will certainly put happiness in the air, and that is absolutely free!
Now, if you need some of those ‘leaf, acorn and twig’ decorations I mentioned, email me… and then back up a truck… I have enough in my own backyard to supply your whole neighborhood!
Vinegar is always on my grocery list… and I buy it by the gallon. Today, in fact, I will be using it to help clear our extremely slow-draining bathroom sink. I’ve also talked about ways to put vinegar to work in household cleaning and laundry, but there are even more ways to substitute vinegar for other remedies and, in some cases, it helps you stay green and avoid chemicals.
Think about this list:
- Acne remedy and skin conditioner – dilute 50/50 with water to use as a toner or dab, full strength, on the problem areas.
- Clean lime deposits and calcium – we’ve all had build-up in our coffee makers and washing machines. Fill the coffee maker with vinegar and brew it, or add a cup to your washing machine and run a cycle without clothes to give it a good cleaning.
- Condition dry hair – shampoo your hair then rinse it with a mix of one cup of apple cider vinegar and two cups of water. (Feel free to wash the vinegar out after that initial rinse!)
- Deodorize a smelly lunchbox – soak a cloth in vinegar and close it up in the lunchbox overnight to eliminate nasty odors.
- Get rid of unwanted weeds – pour in the cracks or crevices or spray directly on the culprits!
- Heal a bruise – apply white vinegar for an hour and it will reduce the discoloration and aid healing (time consuming, but it works!).
- Prevent cracked hard boiled eggs – add two tablespoons per quart of water before boiling the eggs.
- Remove skunk smells – (let’s hope this has happened to your pet and not YOU!) but apply, full strength to your pet’s fur, rinse with cold water, and it will reduce the smell dramatically.
- Repel pesky ants – mix equal parts vinegar and water and spray in the problem areas.
- Stop bug bite itching – dab on the area of the bite and it will relieve the itch.
Undoubtedly vinegar isn’t always the most aromatic and pleasant smell on the planet but given the choice of vinegar over harsh chemicals, I’ll pick the vinegar any time!
Do you have more uses? Share them!
We all have our standards for grocery shopping… that list of do’s and don’ts for what we choose. Maybe it’s a choice of organic produce and/or ingredients. Maybe it’s a matter of avoiding certain contents, like artificial ingredients. Maybe it’s just looking for the overall healthiest choices.
But above and beyond the food we select, there are many ways we can make our grocery store trip “greener”. Consider these 10 simple ways:
- Buy the most minimal packaging. Consider things like fresh breads. They often come in paper bags that can be recycled – a far better choice than plastic wrappers (sometimes double-wrappers!) of mass-produced bread. This holds true for many products. Select those with minimal or the most recyclable packaging.
- Buy a chunk or a brick of sliced cheese over the individually-wrapped version. A package of 24-slices will include 24 sheets of plastic otherwise.
- Buy the big can instead of multiple smaller cans – less packaging and less to recycle. If it’s more than you need, put a reusable container to work and store it in your freezer until you do need it!
- Buy local, every time you can! Did you know that produce in the US travels between 1,500 to 2,500 miles before it even reaches your grocery store? … lots of emissions are created to make that happen!
- Choose fresh over frozen or canned. They use a lot less energy… from the energy used to process and manufacture them, to the energy needed for storage… choose fresh!
- Choose sustainable wild fish over farm-raised – they actually contain less metals and create less contaminates since the concentration of farm-raised fish creates high levels of contaminating waste that will eventually reach our water sources.
- Buy a gallon of milk or juices versus multiple 2-quarts, and buy in boxes versus individual packages. This often means one recyclable container versus two non-recyclable cartons, and one recyclable box over a dozen plastic wrappers. It’s obvious and fairly easy to break down single-servings into reusable containers.
- Embrace the soybean! They’re a fabulous source of protein and cost a lot less than cattle farming! If you replaced one beef meal per month with a soybean product, it would save TWENTY THOUSAND GALLONS of water per year!
- Shop the counter. Buy meats at a counter where you can select the exact amount you need. Prepackaging ends up in excessive waste and often the needless disposal of foods when you “have too much”.
- No paper, no plastic, no arguments! Reusable bags are the only option.
It’s Friday. Now get to shopping… but just remember to think “green-ER” before you buy!