Reusable produce bags… that don’t produce trash.

Every time I visit the grocery store or the local farmer’s market to pick-up some fabulously fresh organic produce, there are little environmentally un-friendly “by-products” that come home with my fruits and veggies… tapple-baghose flimsy plastic bags we’re often forced to use for our produce purchases.

I’ve tried to reuse them, but they’re cheap and end up tearing. I also hesitate because it’s too difficult to get them clean enough to feel safe to reuse them.  So, while I’m buying healthy foods for my family, I’m left with a handful of plastic bags that wind up in the trash.

Enter:  EarthSAKS!  I recently talked about their compact reusable bag that our daughter confiscated, but now I’ve discovered their produce bags too, and what a relief they are!  They’re made of sturdy, see-through, washable mesh with a simple drawstring closure at the top and they even store in an included canvas pouch for toting them back to the store, to use again and

I’ve also picked up a few little mesh laundry bags (typically for your delicates… so why not some delicate produce, right?) when I’ve found them on sale, and if you’re feeling really crafty: a rectangle of mesh fabric, some stitches and string, and voila… reusable produce bag!

Whatever you choose, join me in making sure your produce makes its way to your home without bringing unwanted (plastic) guests!

Trying to think green through the blues…

Obviously, with my stepdad in the hospital in critical condition, I’m feeling quite a bit blue rather than ‘thinking green’… but in between hospital visits I have been finding time to keep up on some of my green reading and preoccupy myself.
I read an article on Planet Green about “10 Surprising Reuses for Bread Tabs” and I admit it made me smile.  First of all, I never envisioned so many uses for these ridiculous little tabs!… “gunk scapers”, wine glass charms, electrical cord labels?  Pretty smart actually.

But it made me smile because this kind of thinking is actually the epitome of my stepdad, Ted.  He always manages to find new uses for everything.  In fact, the car he was driving wcoffee-canhen he had the accident was made almost entirely of salvaged and reused parts… a plastic Miller Lite bottle was even converted into an overflow reservoir for one of the engine fluids!  In his garage, coffee cans, pickle jars and plastic bottles are premium storage containers.  T-shirts that have taken a beating from all of his mechanical work and “building” are turned into his garage rags.  Milk jugs are turned into drip pans and the leather from an old jacket (that got torn) was given new life by becoming the seat of one of the motorcycles he built.

I woulmilk-jugd never tell him how “green” he really is, because he would probably deny it 🙂 but sorry Dad… all this reusing is SO GREEN!

Today, take the time to find something that can be reused instead of thinking of it as trash.  Raise your “reusable”, give thanks that you have the ability to do so and send us another little prayer … Dad is still critical but we continue to hope and pray that he’ll soon be back on his feet to let the reusing continue…

Fresh flowers and blooms that smell of doom!

Waaaay back in my previous life – about 2001 BC (Before Children!) – one of my favorite indulgences was having fresh cut flowers in our home, at all times.  It was a little OVERindulgent, but it sure brightened up the place, no matter the season.

flowers2Since having kids, this has taken a backseat to many other things that command our disposable income.  But one of my shortcomings was that I only looked for cheap flowers without any consideration of how they were grown, where they came from or how they got here… oops!

I’ve since learned that about 70% of flowers sold in the US are imported and grown using highly toxic chemicals, including pesticides, fertilizers and fungicides… doesn’t sound so pleasant to take a big “whiff” now, does it?!  This is a danger to us as consumers, workers cultivating the flower crops and florists working with them daily.  It also pollutes the land and groundwater and creates an unhealthy environmental effect.

Enter: organic flowers! These farms instead use environmental, sustainable practices (without toxins) to insure that everyone in the chain, including the environment, isn’t put at risk.  And it also simply supportverifloras local, domestic farming. Diamond Organics, California Organic Flowers and Organic Bouquet will help put you in the right direction to locate a florist that offers organic flowers or simply buy online if you want “green” blooms.  You can also look for the VeriFlora label or ask your florist if they are VeriFlora certified and you will know you are buying organic… and NOT bringing those toxins into your home or sending them to someone you actually like!

Along with this recent “enlightenment” I also discovered that I have quite a bounty of floral vases that are crowding that useless cupboard above my refrigerator (yeah, you know the one I’m talking about!).  Most of these vases are created with such a variety of glass, they can’t be recycled (hence trash!).  But before you let them hit the can, consider giving them back to a local florist!  Many will happily accept them, and honestly, I would not be one bit irritated if I knew that my flowers were arranged in a reused vase!

And if you’re lucky enough to live in Northeastern Ohio, like me (okay, so it’s not so lucky in the dead of winter!), a co-op between Green Lotus and Cleveland Blooms will actually pick them up from your doorstep(!) so they caflower-vasen be cleaned and sent back to a local florist who wants them, so you don’t even need to do the legwork!

Even though that “flower fund” has now been redirected to “Barbie” and “Planet Heroes” you can bet that, when I want to treat myself to a bouquet, I will be doing a search for organic flowers and calling Green Lotus when my blooms head for the compost pile!

A better way to recycle boxes?

It seems like we are constantly winding up with boxes in our household.  Something gets purchased and shipped, and voila… another box that has me feeling guilty.  (I won’t even begin to discuss the guilt of those boxes that arrive packed full of shipping peanuts and bubble wrap or are obnoxiously overpackaged.)

box-cycleOne of my best friends, Kev, recently moved from the west coast, and he and his partner, Will, spent a small fortune buying moving boxes, then labored over what to do with them afterward.  Another friend’s husband nearly loses sleep over all of the boxes at his work that wind up in the trash on a daily basis.

But what if there is a better way?  Well, there is.  A relatively new site is working hard to help us find boxes we need and sell those we don’t.  You can search for boxes in your area or list boxes that you are willing to part with, before they have to hit the recycle bin.  And isn’t it the most environmental choice to reuse rather than recycle?cardboard-boxes2

I absolutely love this idea.  It’s the exact reason eBay, Craig’s List and Freecycle are so successful, but with a very environmental, targeted offering.  You can actually buy and sell boxes, so yes, there is a cost involved, but isn’t that a win-win situation? You can buy them for much less than brand new, and you can sell them and earn a little money if you have some to get rid of.  And the environmental impact?… well, it keeps them out of landfills and in that beloved “reuse” category.

It would be great if business owners and employees would get in on this action. Imagine NOT driving past a dozen dumpsters a day and seeing them overloaded with cardboard boxes!  And if you’re moving and need boxes, do a search.  If you just need boxes, do a search!  If you have a bunch to sell, get them listed!

So send your unneeded boxes on an adventure.  In the words of Dr. Seuss, “Oh, the places you’ll go!”

“Disposable society”: Crying over spilled milk

First, I will let you know that this is a bit of a rant… but I am (almost) literally crying over spilled milk.

Before our daughter started school this year, I was very conscious to buy her plenty of environmentally-friendly lunch supplies so she wouldn’t have a bunch of disposable junk to throw away at the end of each day.  Yesterday, she came home from school and announced that she spilled her milk at lunchtime. I assured her that accidents happen and not to worry, but she was mostly upset because “the lunch lady” threw away her bottle… yes, the one that I had purchased!

When our daughter asked where it was, “lunch lady” said she threw it away because “it was on the floor.  Your mom will get you a new one.” Huh?  Has she heard of soap and water?  I’m wondering at what point it seemed appropriate to throw away her milk bottle when it was clearly not a ‘throw-away’ and had a large, blazing, hot pink, custom-made label with her name on it!

But this is what we’ve come to.  Unfortunately it seems like we have become an increasingly disposable society.  The knowledge that “things” are always AT our disposal leads us to assume we can always “toss and replace.”  (Man, our great-grandparents would be pissed!)

I wanted to drive to school and whack “lunch lady” in the head, to be perfectly honest… then get in her purse to recover some money to replace it… (okay, not really, yet I AM really, really annoyed!).  And I guess this was just an eye-opener and another reminder that we have such a long, long way to go.

I think far too much of what we buy these days is disposable, with a single-use purpose… we over-consume, we over-spend and it is horribly harsh on the environment as a result. Even with high-priced items (electronics, appliances, etc.) we are lead to believe that we should “just buy a new one instead of repairing it.”  For pete’s sake, you can even buy an intentionally disposable camera!

When did all of this happen?  I have no idea, but I know how… manufacturers and marketing, with an (un)healthy dose of consumerism!  And now, we’ve become far too accustom to having “disposables at our disposal!”  I doubt this will ever change… it’s already gone too far and it’s rolling like a freight train.  All we can do is take control of our own decisions and choose not to be a part of the problem.  And hopefully persuade others to follow our lead. Good luck to us… it sometimes feels like an uphill battle.

So, there it is… I feel much better now!  Thanks for indulging me.  Now I need to get back to making a new label that reads: “I am not a disposable bottle, LUNCH LADY!”