Vacation, nature, and a bit of irony…

Yes, summer is dwindling… and as I spend small portions of days preparing to send our kids back to school I keep running across reminders of the vacation that was nodunes-kidst so long ago, but seems so long ago.

The drive took us through breathtaking views of West Virginia mountains where we were awed by trees as far as the eye could see.  It was amazing to see so many undisturbed miles without areas cleared away for development.  My views on chopping down trees are no mystery.   Can you just imagine how invigorating the air in the middle of those mountains must be?

I think about our kids running wild over the Jockey’s Ridge sand dunes, the largest active dune system in the Eastern US.  What a difference to those treed mountains… conditions on the dunes are so harsh, vegetation can only grow on the outskirts.  But the sunset… ah, the sunset.   The silhouettes in this photo are actually our precious kids, standing where the top of the dunes (that are believed to have been formed millions of years ago) seem to meet the sky.

And what beach vacation doesn’t include lots of ocean time.  Just the sound relaxes me.  I could watch the waves for hours on end and I get seaglasswrapped up in how vast and amazing the ocean is.  The irony is that one of our favorite adventures was trying to find sea glass washed up on the shore.  This sea glass is actually glass that has found its way into the ocean and gets tumbled and smoothed by the water, sand and salt.  Every time we found one it was like finding a real gem and then I start to wonder what it came from, where it originated, who touched it before us and even how it wound up in the ocean.  Yes, ironic that Mom Goes Green and family found treasures in something that started as ocean litter!

The point of all of this is simply that experiencing the mountains, the sprawling dunes and the incredible ocean reminds me of another quote by Divamish Indian Chief Seattle:

“Take only memories, leave nothing but footprints.”

… tread lightly in our daily lives, because this planet is truly amazing!

Raccoons & snakes & birds, oh my! A natural attraction?

Over the past weeks, we’ve had a raccoon hid her babies in our yard, snakes take up residence in a bush outside our front door and two birds nest under a different bush.  A raccoon even stopped by in our open garage while I was quietly doing something one evening. (That event caused me to let out a “startled scream” that sent mama running!)

rcoon-babiesAll this in a suburban neighborhood, close enough to urban life that we can see downtown Cleveland from our backyard.

I truly wondered “what gives!” until my husband pointed out that we have the most natural place in the neighborhood… no chemicals, no fertilizers or pesticides, no unfriendly environments… and I think he’s right.

When my neighbor saw the snakes, she suggested we pay for an exterminator or snake wrangler to get them out of here.  (Seriously?  I should pay someone to evict these poor little harmless creatures?!  But she is the same person {although she is a nice lady} that chopped down all of her backyard trees last year.) Then there is the other neighbor (also a “tree chopper“) that called out his OWN tree service to look at removing a tree in OUR yard because he didn’t like the leaves it was dropping in his driveway!  He offered to pay half, which we politely declined.snake

Maybe animals really do have a sense of “someplace safe”… yea, MomGoesGreen’s yard, of course!  And our kids are loving the animal park in their own yard (but yes, I do understand the dangers of raccoons, so they have been educated on safety.)

If you believe in karma, I think you’ll agree that my husband is right.  There IS a natural attraction because we do let off all whole lot of “good nature karma!”

Air conditioning vs. fresh air: 10 ways to “keep our cool”.

At the start of every summer, as the temperature rises, my husband and I seem to have the same discussion… when to turn on the air conditioning!

therm-risingThis is never an easy discussion (okay! read: argument!) as this is the man who wears shorts and t-shirts around the house when it is 19 degrees outside in the dead of winter.

I prefer the open windows and doors, and want to breathe the fresh air.  To this my husband responds “Babe, it ceases to be fresh as soon as it’s 86 degrees with 70% humidity!”  Well, it’s still fresh but I guess it does cease to be RE-freshing!

Just like heating your house in the winter and whether you do or don’t choose to crank the AC, there are ways to keep your house cooler, stop some of the cool air loss and use less energy in the process:

  • Close blinds or curtains in various windows throughout the day to prevent the sun shining in.  If it’s coming in, so is the heat.
  • Use ceiling fans. They circulate the cool air and don’t use a lot of energy.
  • Program your thermostat.  No need to keep it blasting in the evening or when you aren’t even home.
  • When it’s cool outside at night, shut off the air, open the windows and take advantage.ceil-fan
  • 74 degrees is all you need.  This is a bearable temperature, and if you can tolerate it higher, do it!  Each degree saves 3-4% on your cooling expenses.
  • Don’t worry about unused rooms.  Close the windows, doors and vents in these rooms, and block the bottom of the door if they aren’t frequently occupied.
  • Run appliances at night.  This includes dryers & dish washers that give off heat. Avoid using your oven… give it a rest and grill instead!  And if you do use the stovetop, be sure to use the exhaust fan to take away the heat.
  • Turn off unneeded lights, TVs, computers, etc. when you aren’t using them.  They all generate heat too.
  • Keep heat generating appliances away from the thermostat (TVs, lamps, etc.).  They’ll make the thermostat think it’s hotter than it really is.
  • Don’t chop down trees that shade your house.  They simply keep a house cooler.  And even plant strategically.  Shaded AC units run more efficiently, but just be sure not to block the airflow.

I do try to take my own advice.  It’s not always easy (living with my husband who compensates by turning up the ceiling fans to “jet speed”) but it’s a compromise we always seem to manage when it all “boils down”!

Grab your gear and get back to nature.

I’ve always been a city girl at heart, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate nature.  In fact, I may even appreciate it more as I see the direct effect of suburban development near my home (and the herds of deer that have taken up residence in the ravine behind my house and spent one night devouring all of my landscaping!)

camp-at-homeAnd while I’m not one to ‘rough it’ either, I realize that getting back to nature doesn’t mean you have to spend a small fortune at the outdoor store and drive for hours to set-up camp in some remote region of the country.  Your own backyard can be the ideal campsite.

This Saturday (June 27), in fact, is the Great American Backyard Campout.

Conceived by the National Wildlife Federation, this is a day they have created to invite families to reconnect with nature and the outdoors, and remind us that we can manage life “with a little less”.  You can set up tents, cookout over a fire pit, explore your surroundings, play flashlight tag, star gaze and our kids’ ever-favorite… gorge on S’mores!  Shut down all the lights, computers and TVs in your house and even save a little electricity while you’re at it. (Indoor latrine, via flashlight, permitted of marsh-roastcourse!)

If you want to find out who’s camping nearby, or register your own outing, check out NWFs site for more information.

I think this is a great opportunity to join families all over the country in embracing everything the great outdoors has to offer.  Now the only fear I have is waking up to find Bambi staring me in the face!

The Prince’s Rainforests Project: a royal cause

First of all, this has absolutely nothing to do with “Purple Rain”(!), but everything to do with saving cherished tropical rainforests!

The Prince’s Rainforests Project (as in Charles, Prince of Wales) was started in 2007, but is being given a big push by the release of this new PSA. If it takes royalty and celebrities to get a cause noticed, I don’t care… I’m all for it, as long as the cause DOES get noticed and positive steps are made.  I think this will appeal to kids too… take a look.

The mission of this project is to create public awareness, work with governments, businesses and non-profit organizations to find a solution for deforestation, and find sources for funding.  This global effort is aimed at getting top level support from nations around the world.

Saving these tropical rainforests is so critical because they absorb about a fifth of all man-made CO2 emissions, and we all know how CO2 affects climate change.  In fact, these forests are often burned down, which releases all of the CO2 they have stored back into the atmosphere, as if they had never existed.  And this doesn’t even consider the fate of the animals that call these forests home.

So check out The Prince’s Rainforests Project, sign-up to have your voice heard, find new ways to help and spread the word.  Stand up and say you want this preventable disaster to stop.

And when you take a look at The Prince’s Rainforests Project site, be sure to watch the counter at the top of the page.  In the time I spent reading one page on the site… 445,129 square meters of rainforest were destroyed.  How horribly sad.