Mom Goes Green’s 250th post… a holiday review!

ornament recycleWhat a whirlwind this holiday has been! It’s hard to refocus after all of the craziness… and to top it off, this is my 250th post!  Ironically, last year’s post on the same date was my 100th post… 150 posts in one year!  I knew I could be a chatterbox at times but never imagined I would chatter that much!

The holidays didn’t start in a pleasant way with both kids getting horribly sick… vomiting and other intestinal problems that shall remain without description!  Our poor son’s bout arrived on Christmas Eve and continued into the wee hours of the morning, but luckily he rallied like a trooper and made it through Christmas Day.  And somehow Santa managed to sneak in between the “episodes”.  The way both of them were able to recover so quickly has made me an even bigger proponent of breastfeeding (yes, without getting too personal, I exclusively breastfed both of them).  There is truly something to be said for the way nature “built us”… it certainly gives us a healthy, strong start that obviously continues through life. This is also a likely testament to good eating and healthy food choices!

This year all gifts were given in recycled gift bags.  Not a single supply was purchased, including gift tags that were made from last year’s Christmas cards.  Every recyclable ounce of paper and packaging was most definitely recycled and our recycling can “runneth over”!xmas place set

I’m happy to say, during all of our gatherings, everyone pulled out the real dishes, silverware and glassware.  No disposables to add to landfills… and that definitely made me happy!  I don’t know if it’s my influence or our families simply didn’t want to deal with my complaining, but either way… I was happy with the outcome!

I am grateful for the generosity of our families but simultaneously cringing at the way the corner of our dining room looks like a toy store due to all of the yet-to-be-unpackaged gifts!  The upside is that both of our kids have agreed that it is beyond due time to clear out all of the toys they’ve outgrown and give them to children who aren’t nearly as fortunate as they are.  I think the entire family will be taking an inventory and making some generous donations (and I hope you will too).

We also gave only gifts that were on wish-lists.  Those without wish-lists received gift cards or good ‘ole cashola!  And who can complain about that?  I just don’t think it makes sense to buy something for someone just because we think we’re supposed to give them something.  It just seems wasteful to give someone something that will clutter a house… that’s certainly no gift!

Last year we were gifted with unseasonably warm weather in late December (upper 60s in Ohio!?!).  This year we were gifted with a snow storm.  Our kids are ready for lots of snow time, but this simultaneously means I’ll have to contend with the naysayers “Global warming my a$$!” comments.  My response to this goes without saying.

chpstx basktOne of my favorite gifts this year came from my mother-in-law:  a basket made from recycled chopsticks!  I think she was as excited to give it to me as I was to receive it, but it’s apparent that our family is definitely catching on to Mom Goes Green’s way of thinking!

Soon we will also re-gift last year’s Kiva donation.  The money we loaned to a farmer in Tajikistan to purchase seeds for farming has been repaid, and we will donate the repaid money to another “working poor” recipient so the cycle can continue.  I’m also considering making an extra donation so one more family can receive much needed financial aid. Take a look at Kiva to learn more about this amazing organization.

Overall, despite the challenge of the “pukies”, we’ve had a wonderful Christmas and enjoyed all of our celebrations.  Isn’t that really what the holidays are all about?  I hope you created amazing memories with your family as well.

Sadly, I also know of a few families who lost loved ones, unexpectedly, during the holiday.  This, unfortunately, put life into perspective.

Here’s to love, happiness, family and friends that make life worthwhile… and cheers (and fears) about the NEXT 250 posts… I’m sure there will be plenty to say!

Wrappin’ reminder: keepin’ it green!

fabric wrapBy now, the gifts should be purchased and the wrapping is underway!  So, while you’ve certainly paid special attention to what you’ve selected, how you “present the present” also needs special attention too.

The average household output of trash actually increases by 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, due in part to wrapping paper, packaging, boxes and all of the waste that results from the holidays. Gasp! I fully intend NOT to be one of those households and will recycle everything in sight, but while you can manage what happens with the waste from the gifts you receive, you can’t guarantee what the recipients of your gifts will do…

So before you unroll yards and yards of wrapping paper, ribbons and massive bows… halt!… and consider these better ways!:

  • Buy recycled wrapping paper if you absolutely MUST wrap with paper (yea, I understand that kids love to unwrap!)gift fab bag
  • Use, save, reuse, reuse and reuse gift bags.  They can have an amazingly long life.  Try to choose uncoated paper though… it simply recycles better when it finally comes to the end of its use.
  • Put the gift in a reusable bag.  You can often score a reusable bag for less than the cost of a gift bag, and then it becomes a gift in and of itself!
  • Use part of the gift as the wrap.  Scarf? Towel? Basket? Bowl? Wrap it around or put it inside.
  • Wrap with fabric scraps and biodegradable raffia.  Simple as that!
  • Skip bows and opt for berries, pinecones, evergreen clipping, twigs or a real flower instead. These natural embellishments can even make brown craft paper look festive!
  • Before you toss out this year’s wall calendar, use the images for wrapping smaller packages.
  • Use old holiday card photos or images to create your gift tag.  You have ‘em, so use ‘em!
  • Reuse, reduce, recycle.  Save the materials you receive to be reused (gift bags, bows, ribbon). Reduce the amount of materials you use for your gift giving.  Recycle all of the paper and packaging from your gifts angift w conesd make sure they go in the bin, not the trash can.
  • (You can also choose not to wrap anything it all! My mom told me “in her day” her Christmas gifts from Santa weren’t wrapped!  They appeared under the tree “au naturale!” Hmmm… makes you wonder how and when Santa changed his policies!)

This will all be over before you know it!  Take a deep breath, grab your green supplies and see if you can join me in avoiding that 25%!

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!

Can pizza boxes be recycled? The REAL answer!

It’s somewhat bizarre that this post follows my recent post about the psychology of food and how organic and healthy foods can psycholzza-boxogically help us feel better, but seriously… we all splurge and occasionally eat the bad stuff too.  Show me one person who doesn’t and I’ll show you a hundred who DO!

Anyhow, I often find myself frustrated with the inaccurate information about what can be recycled and what cannot.  Pizza boxes are a prime example because I’ve seen them listed on far too many “recyclable lists” without clear explanations.

Most are made of corrugated cardboard… a material that is normally recyclable, but I want to clear up this misconception…

PIZZA BOXES SHOULD NOT BE RECYCLED!

There are exceptions to this rule, so here is the 411 on pizza boxes.  As soon as foods (especially oils, cheese, etc.) absorb into this cardboard it become UNRECYCLABLE.  If recycled, the paper fibers will not be able to separate from the oils during pulping and a tainted pizza box can actually ruin an entire batch of paper during this process.  If some parts, like the lid, don’t have any oil or food on it, tear it off and recycle it, but if it’s dirty, forget it… and toss it in the trash.

This also holds true for any paper products that have been soiled by food… paper plates, napkins, paper towels, etc.  If your rationale is that these items will be weeded out before recycling just remember that they can cross-contaminate a lot of paper around them while they wait to be recycled, so you are also ruining a bunch of otherwise recyclable materials.

While I’m on this pizza box kick, check out this nifty creation from e.c.o. Incorporated.  It actually turns your pizza box into your plates and storage container.

It’s Friday… so after you take a break from a week full of cooking and call your local pizza joint, remember the real answer for recycling the box:  your recycle bin and all the other papers inside say “no thanks”!

Gift giving CAN be eco-friendly!

I recently had occasion to purchase a wedding shower gift for our neighbor’s daughter.  Many of us have been there… that occasion where we labor over 12 pages of “wishes” and try to find something that you honestly feel wasn’t a “whim wish” and an item that won’t actually find itself shoved in a corner closet after the bride realizes it wasn’t really something she needed.

bamboo-crt1While we certainly can’t control what the bride selected, we can certainly choose how to spend our money.  And as I poured over the list, one item caught my eye immediately:  Bamboo Kitchen Cart with Wine Rack.  I was thrilled to know that I could actually buy something useful, as well as something “sustainable”!

I need to remind myself that I do have choices every time I purchase a gift.  A few extra minutes with a list or some special attention and you can be pleased that the gift suits you too!  Look for the bamboo cutting board or cutlery.  Look for the organic cotton towels or sheets.  And whoever said you HAVE TO buy off the list?!  Buy something that you’ll be happy to give.  Just be sure that your gift is useful.  Remember this: An used gift amounts to house clutter that will eventually be cast off.

Other ideas to keep your gift greener:

  • Consider a reusable bag instead of wrapping paper.wrap-raf
  • Simply wrap things (like towels) in themselves.
  • Scraps of fabric lying around after crafty endeavors? Wrap the gift in it!
  • A bamboo kitchen towel or two would even do the trick for any gift. For bigger gifts, a table cloth will cover it!
  • Use biodegradable raffia instead of ribbon or reuse ribbons you’ve salvaged.
  • Use a photo or image from a card you received to make a gift tag.
  • Skip the bow and use a pretty flower from your garden instead.  Even twigs, berries or pinecones make great toppers with simple brown craft paper for the wrap.

My big thing has always been that “it’s about choices”.  And even if the bride’s choices leave you rolling your eyes, your gift can keep your eyes sparkling “green”!