Friday, December 23, 2011
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Moving boxes are one of the biggest costs of moving! At http://www.moving.com/moving-boxes/packing-calculator.asp you can enter in the size of your house, years lived there and the number of adults to calculate how many boxes you will need to move. I used this tool and it suggests that we will need approximately 35 boxes of various sizes. (Although it did not take into account the mass quantity of books we own which took about 35 small book boxes alone!) There are many places you can purchase boxes from including: home improvement stores, moving truck rental locations and even storage facilities. To purchase a moving box kit of 35 boxes from one of these sources it would cost between $75-$100! WOW that is a lot of money!
So, how can you save money and the environment but still pack your house? Find boxes for FREE! I was able to find enough boxes through a couple of different sources. I discovered that many people post boxes for free on http://www.craigslist.org/ (this is also what I did after we were all moved in). This is the BEST idea I found! Simply type ‘moving boxes’ into the search engine and you will find many results, most of which will be free to pickup! Another way of course is to save the boxes you receive packages in. (I found that the post office flat rate boxes I received from deliveries came in very handy for packing books which can get too heavy very quickly!) Also, many retail, grocery and restaurants receive TONS of boxes in daily. It is possible to contact these local places and ask for boxes. I didn’t spend ANY money on boxes during our move – which saved us about $100. And when we finished unpacking the house, I listed the boxes on craigslist again.
Happy Green Moving!
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Happy Green Composting!
Monday, November 7, 2011
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
One lucky winner will be selected on Sunday 10/16/11 at 12am est.
Saturday, October 1, 2011
If you are thinking about cloth diapers than one thing is probably at the forefront of your mind – POOP. I remember being so worried about this part of cloth diapers. What do you do with the poop? Do I have to touch it? How messy is this going to be? Well, it really is not as bad as you are thinking. If this is one of your hang ups, here is something to try. The next time your little one has a poopy diaper, after you are done with the diaper change, take the poopy diaper into the bathroom and shake the poop into the toilet (make sure that you are close to the water when you try this you don’t want any splashing!). As you will see, most of it comes off really easy and then you can simply flush it away; and that is off of a disposable paper diaper, it is even easier off of cloth! What happens when it is mushy, and sticks to the diaper?? Well then you can just ‘swish’ it in the bowl, or get a diaper sprayer that you can really easily attach to the back of the toilet and spray it off. After a couple of times it is really easy and just like changing a disposable diaper has become second nature, so too will this.
The second thing you must be thinking and worrying about is WASHING! Well, really it is too easy! All you need is a ‘dry pail’, which simply means you don’t soak them in water. A pail liner is nice (something waterproof that will keep your pail from growing an odor) but not essential, you can wash with bleach and spray with Lysol between uses without one! It is best to wash the diapers every 2-3 days, depending on your ‘stash’ size. When it is time to wash, simply take the pail or liner to the washing machine and dump it in. As for the detergent – there are a lot of really great natural brands out there (Crunchy Clean, Clean B, Ruby Moon and many others), or you can use an unscented gentle detergent like All free and clear. The rest is just like a normal wash and dry! Make sure to read the specific instructions for the brand that of diapers that you are trying to avoid any shrinking or damaging of them. Sometimes the diapers need to be stripped (if they have built up detergent residues and seem less absorbent than usual), and that is really easy too. If this is the case – you can just wash the clean diapers with NO detergent 2-3 times on HOT. If you do not have a HE washer, you can add a squirt of Dawn to one load which will help strip them – do not try this in an HE washer it is not low sudsing!
Now you will need to decide how you are going to store the wet diapers between washes. There are a couple of different options: dry pail, wet pail or wet bag. A dry pail is the easiest way to store them and is what I use. All you need is a pail (a trash can will work) and a pail liner. You simply put the wet diapers in the pail and when it is time to wash you can take the liner and dump the whole thing into the washing machine. A wet pail is more messy and does pose a drowning risk to your child (make sure to have a secure lid on the pail if you choose to use this method). To use a wet pail you fill the pail with water and let the diapers soak before washing. Then you dump the water and diapers into the washing machine to wash them. A wet bag is a bag with a waterproof interior that you can store the diapers in. These are perfect for when you are out and about and also a good idea to keep one by the changing table. You can use the wet bag in lieu of a diaper pail if that is more convenient for you. When it is time to wash them you can simply throw the contents of the bag and the bag itself into the wash.
Cloth Diapers vs. Landfill Diapers
First, I want am not AGAINST landfill diapers. I simply prefer to use cloth because it is gentler to my baby, saves money, and well, they are just so darn cute! There are some things to consider about landfill diapers. The whole reason that they work is because of the chemicals it is just that simple! If you don’t like the idea of chemicals being close to your baby’s skin, then cloth diapers are a better solution!
Will I really SAVE MONEY?
When I started looking into cloth diapers it seemed so expensive to get started. It is a larger upfront cost to buy the cloth diapers and you do have to consider washing costs too.
On average a child is potty trained between 2 and 3 years old – we will use 2 ½ as a framework for determining costs. For my costs I am going to use Huggies Snug and Dry purchased at warehouse stores for the prices.
On average disposable diapers cost over $2200 per child! Cloth diapering is not cheap initially; it seems so expensive because it is an upfront cost. With disposable diapers the cost is spread out over 2 ½ years, so it does not seem like it could add up to that much!! When you are using cloth, it is a larger upfront investment – but then you are done (unless, like me you keep finding cute prints/styles that you have to have!!).
Starting a stash early is the best way to get going with cloth! Register for cloth diapers instead of disposies! People buying you diapers will be paying the same amount to buy you a box of disposies or a couple of cloth diapers!!
How many cloth diapers do I need?
This all depends on you and your baby! How many diapers do you change in a day? I usually recommend taking that number and doubling it and that is the least amount that you should have in your stash. You should also take into account how often you want to wash them. You can become an every night washer, and then you would need fewer. If, like me, you have enough other laundry to wash, you may want to wash them ever 2-3 days and should have enough to accommodate this schedule.
With diapeze the cover can be used for a couple of diaper changes so you will need 10-12 covers to get started. You will need more diapeze inserts, usually about 15-20 depending on the number of diaper changes that you go through. The good thing is that the insert is the same size for all size covers! So once you invest in these, they will last you a really long time! They also become more absorbent with each wash, so they actually wear-in instead of wear-out! The covers do come in sizes, but most you can purchase them as your baby grows, so it is not a huge upfront investment.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Monday, September 5, 2011
In this post we will be going over two of the world most respected and used groups that provide certifications to be labeled as organic or natural. The CCOF: California Certified Organic Farmers and the NPA: Natural Product Association.
The “CCOF promotes and supports organic food and agriculture through a premier organic certification program, trade support, producer and consumer education and political advocacy. From apples to zucchini, from almonds to wine, CCOF is involved in every facet of organics, with over 1,300 different organic crops and products, including livestock, processed products and services.”[i]
The “Natural Products Association is the nation’s largest and oldest non-profit organization dedicated to the natural products industry. The Natural Products Association represents over 1,900 members accounting for over 10,000 retail, manufacturing, wholesale, and distribution locations of natural products, including foods, dietary supplements, and health/beauty aids. NPA unites a diverse membership, from the smallest health food store to the largest dietary supplement manufacturer.”[ii]
While there are not many differences between USDA Organic and USDA All Natural processes, some of the differences are significant. Here is an overview of these differences to aid you in your decision making.
Organic certifications concentrates on the farming aspect. To be labeled as 100% organic you may not use synthetic (non-biological) fertilizer or synthetic pest management solutions in any way. The soil must be tested and have been clean of all synthetic products for a minimum of five years. Organic livestock can only be fed with crops that meet the above criteria. Ranchers may not use any synthetic antibiotics or hormones while the animals are being raised. This is where the organic process stops. Once the Animal or produce is sent to the production facilities it is no longer monitored by the USDA Organic umbrella.
· All machinery that touches organic ingredients can be cleaned with steam or bleach.
· The Packaging of organic products can use a wide range of materials including Styrofoam trays, cellophane wrap and other Non-natural materials.
· Organic can also be frozen using conventional methods (slow freezing, below 32° F), which allows crystallization, and the possibility of harmful bacteria that need oxygen to grow like E Coli.
· Organic product is not required to be vacuumed sealed which allows the possibility of other harmful bacteria that need oxygen to live) like salmonella.
This is amazing and shocking to me as a professional chef for over twelve years you would think I would know this type of information.
There is a list of Nonagricultural (nonorganic) substances allowed as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as “organic” or “made with organic”. While not all of these items are bad they are not organic, isn’t that a contradiction? Here is a link to the complete list to the allowed substances. http://law.justia.com/cfr/title07/7-188.8.131.52.31.7.344.6.html. The only way to ensure you are buying a fully organic product is if it states “100% ORGANIC” on the label accompanied with a USDA and/or a CCOF label. Companies are only allowed to use the term 100% organic if they have met the detailed requirements by the CCOF or USDA. Here is a diagram of what passes as 100% organic and the different levels of organic certification.
Now let’s talk about All Natural product. USDA and the Natural Products Association (NPA) concentrates on the processing aspect of food production through very strict guidelines covering production. The farming aspect of All Natural is similar to Organic in that no synthetic fertilizer and no non-biological pest management solutions can be used during the growing cycle of the crops or raising of the animal.
All natural focuses on the current growing cycle, in other words, there could be trace amounts of synthetic fertilizer or non-biological herbicides still in the soil from previous years of non-natural growing. Fortunately, these are measured in nanograms (one billionth of a gram, 0.000000001g) and have not been shown to have any affects on humans. All Natural livestock can also be fed from crops that have these nanograms of residue in the soil. You are probably asking yourself, ‘how big is a nanogram’? Imagine a grain of rice, this weighs approximately 2-3 grams, now imagine that grain of rice divided by 2 billion, that would be a nanogram.
Once the crop is harvested or the animal is raised and given to the production facility, the strict guidelines of the USDA & NPA continue.
· all machinery that touches the product must be steam cleaned and the use of bleach is prohibited.
· In order to receive a USDA or NAP certification only natural products can touch the food like rice paper or other all natural materials during packaging.
· Also, blast freezing is the only method allowed this means the item was frozen at 50° below zero instantly. This prevents crystallization and eliminates almost all anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that do not need oxygen to live) like E. coli.
· Food products must also be vacuum sealed, which eliminates all aerobic bacteria (bacteria that need oxygen to live) like salmonella.
I hope after reading this post it helps you realize the benefits of Organic and All Natural. There are many differences, and like all things we must weigh these differences and determine what is important to our families. My family’s decision is leaning towards focusing on All Natural products. We feel that the positive environmental and economical impacts of All Natural outweigh any potential nanograms of residual pesticides in the soil. We like the idea that All Natural is mandated to follow steam cleaning, all natural packaging, blast freezing and vacuum sealing procedures. While, Organic companies can be following those requirements on their own volition, it is not required and without labeling we would not know for sure who is doing what. Either way, purchasing 100% Organic or All Natural products is better than not looking for these types of products because of the high standards that they are held to. We appreciate the CCOF and NAP’s efforts on holding these companies to these higher standards and thus producing better products.
Here’s to Happy Green purchasing!
Saturday, August 27, 2011
|Add approximately 60% leaves or browns and 40% grass and food scraps|
Friday, August 26, 2011
So…here is a refresher on how and what to recycle!
I love to recycle! But am I doing it right? Am I recycling enough or am I recycling too much?
An easy list of things to NEVER recycle – food waste (or items with food waste on them – make sure to rinse!), yard waste, disposable diapers, cloth diapers, plastic wrap, wood, cloth or clothing, trash. Plastic shopping bags typically cannot be recycled in the home containers, they need to be collected and taken to your local grocery store to recycle (they often have containers outside to place them in.)
Many city recycling programs have websites full of information that you can look up for how to easily recycle in your city. The information provided was found from my local waste management site, for California – so be sure to check your site for do’s and don’ts that may be specific for your area.
In Sacramento, all recyclable materials – plastic, metal, paper and more – can be put into one single bin because they have an innovative sorting technology that allows them to recover three times as much recyclable materials as they could previously.
I found a great do’s and don’t list at this link for my area - http://www.wm.com/customer-service/residential-recycling-faq.jsp?zip=95628
Here is an at a glance view on items that you can and cannot recycle
· Corrugated cardboard (boxes)
· Office paper (all colors)
· Paperboard (cereal boxes)
· Paper cardboard dairy/juice cartons (in limited areas only)
· Unsolicited direct mail (even window envelopes are okay)
· Phone books
· Aluminum cans
· Foil and aluminum bakeware
· Steel cans and tins (rinsed-out soup cans, veggie cans, coffee cans, etc.)
· Wire coat hangers
· Empty aerosol cans
· Clear glass (rinsed mayonnaise containers, pasta sauces, pickle jars, etc.)
· Brown amber glass typically used for beer
· Green bottles typically used for wine
· Plastic containers can often be recycled but make sure it’s clean! Does that peanut butter jar still have some remnants sticking to the side? Don't recycle it until it's clean!
· Plastic products labeled Code 1 and Code 2 are widely accepted at recycling facilities. These typically include soft drink and soda bottles; plastics from cereal boxes; containers for salad dressing, vegetable oil, and peanut butter; oven-ready meal trays; butter and margarine tubs; and containers for laundry detergent and some household cleaners.
· Waxed paper
· Food-contaminated paper (such as a cheese-encrusted pizza box)
· Mixed metal and paper (like stapled paper – just remove the staple and the paper can be recycled)
· Food-contaminated metals (like a half-eaten can of beans – rinse out the beans and the can is good to recycle!)
· Automotive parts
· Plumbing parts
· Paint cans with wet or dried-on paint
· Any glass contaminated with stones, dirt and food waste
· Ceramics, such as dishware, ovenware, and decorative items
· Heat-resistant glass, such as Pyrex
· Mixed colors of broken glass
· Mirror or window glass
· Metal or plastic caps, corks or lids
· Light bulbs
· Cathode-ray tubes (CRTs) found in some televisions and computer monitors (See our Other Waste section for how to properly recycle electronics)
· Municipalities differ on whether to accept products labeled with Code 4 and Code 5. These typically include squeezable bottles, bread wrappers, frozen food bags, dry cleaning bags, yogurt containers, syrup bottles, ketchup bottles, some straws, and prescription bottles.
· Plastic grocery and produce sacks are commonly, but not always, made from plastic types 2 or 4. These bags are often collected in barrels at grocery stores.
· Plastic products labeled with Code 3, 6, or 7 are less-often accepted for recycling. These typically include window cleaner and dishwashing detergent bottles, some shampoo bottles, cooking oil bottles, clear food packaging, plastics used in most blister packs, disposable coffee cups, polystyrene, plastic egg cartons, aspirin bottles, and compact disc cases.
Some interesting facts about recyclable materials (visit www.thinkgreen.com/resrecycling for more information)
Paper production represents 1.2% of the world’s totally economic output yet it makes up more than 40% of landfills!
The scrap value of the 36 billion aluminum cans Americans discarded in one year alone was about $600 million. Apart from the economic impact, the environmental savings of recycling metal are enormous. Recycling steel and tin cans, for example, saves 74% of the energy needed to produce them in the first place.
Glass is endlessly recyclable, and most glass bottles and jars produced in the United States now contain at least 25% recycled glass – which also requires 75% less energy to produce than glass made from new materials. One important thing to keep in mind as you recycle glass is that even small amounts of some materials (like ceramics) mixed in with glass can contaminate entire loads.
Did you know that every year we produce enough plastic film in this country to shrink-wrap Texas? Or that Americans discard 38 billion plastic water bottles every year? While plastic offers the advantages of being flexible and lightweight, manufacturing it consumes fossil resources and contributes waste to our environment. One important thing to keep in mind as you recycle plastics is that cleanliness is essential. One dirty product, or one with food waste still in it, can contaminate an entire bale containing thousands of pounds of collected plastics.
I found that I am actually over-recycling. I need to be better about rinsing all food waste from containers prior to recycling. I didn’t know that a single piece of contaminated recyclable material can ruin an entire bail of recyclables! I would hate to be the cause of that! I also need to check the number better on my plastic containers. I love to recycle! And I love that my recycling bin fills up more quickly than my garbage bin! Happy Green Recycling!
Thursday, August 25, 2011
The farmer’s market day for my family is my favorite day of the week. I get to spend time with my son and wife at this really cool place that has all kinds of amazing looking food. At the same time I also get to instill the fun factor of local food in my son’s life which will benefit him in the long run. I feel it is important for children of all ages to understand that food comes from the earth and not a box. As if the day isn’t already awesome, I also get to have a positive impact on the environment by not using a company that ships food across the world using non recyclable storage containers and fossil fuels. You may say that your small farmer’s market cannot feed the whole city, but if each town would embrace the fact that these amazing farmers will go from town to town bringing their product to you it could – it can’t get much easier than that! For me, it’s a double whammy, I get to bring great food home to cook for my family and make new connections with local farmers for my restaurant.
Cooking from the farmer’s market is a great way to challenge yourself to learn new recipes for your repertoire and experiment with new and different flavors. Even as a professional chef, I am surprised by new and different foods each time I visit the farmer’s market. I deal with food every single day, and I love finding new things that I never knew existed. I also love having the opportunity to talk one-on-one with the farmers to see if they grow a specific item that I have used in the past, it is a great circle of education for both of us.
The farmer’s market isn’t just about the produce. You can find the most amazing honey, talk to the bee keeper and find out what kind of flowers the bees pollinated. Depending on the nectar the bee found, each variety has a different flavor, who knew that honey could have different flavors, amazing! You can also find the freshest, local cheese, like Nicasio Valley , they rear their own dairy cows to make their cheeses (are you kidding me, that is sweet!) There are also specialty vendors that do pickling, dried fruits and nuts, local and organic meats and fishes, I mean come on – who wouldn’t want to partake in these fresh and flavorful treats.
Now, you might say that sounds expensive and it can be. But no different than the money we have to pay to keep our parks clean from non-recyclable litter, the city dump, waste management and even medical costs from future health complications. Eating naturally can bring a new meaning to a happy green life.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Paper towels have been around since 1931. And one of the main impacts they have on the environment is that they have to be disposed of, after just one use. Yes, there are many ‘more absorbent’ paper towels that make it so you can use less sheets to clean up a mess, but you are still posed with the problem of having to throw them away after each use. Yes, there are brands that use a significant amount of recycled paper to make them, but you are again stuck having to throw them in the garbage.
It is easy to grab a towel to dry wet hands, clean up a messy counter and even as a napkin at dinner. But how many towels does this add up to? Let’s calculate the amount of paper towels that the average household uses in one year. An average household uses approximately 4 rolls of paper towels in a week. That ends up being 208 rolls of paper towels in a year, or approximately 17,472 paper towels (84 2ply paper towels per roll). This adds up quick, not only in trash but also in money spent from your family’s budget. An average 2-ply roll of paper towels is $1.95 per roll, this equals $405.60 spent on paper towels in a year. WOW, there are a lot of other things that I could use an extra $400 for! It adds up quick if you multiply this across the country. It is estimated that over 2.5 million paper towels, or 29,762 rolls, or $58,036 worth of paper towels are thrown into our landfills in just one year!
Paper towels not only affect our budget and our landfills, but there are also manufacturing processes that make them hard on the environment. Most paper towels are made from paper pulp, which is extracted from wood or other fibrous crops. They are often bleached which has a very harmful bi-product, dioxin, which is linked to birth defects and cancer.
There are some non-paper alternatives to paper towels that can be just as easy and sanitary to use. In many public restrooms, hand blow-dryers are present which are easy to use and efficient at reducing the amount of paper towels used. But it is not easy to have one of these installed by every sink in your home, and they obviously wouldn’t work to clean the counters. The easiest solution for at home is unpaper towels. They are made from many different fabrics: cotton flannel, Sherpa, terry and other fabrics are both absorbent and great at cleaning messes. With an unpaper towel you can often rinse it out and use it for multiple cleanings before having to throw it in the wash. They work great for all of your household cleaning jobs from counters, to windows and mirrors!
This is how we do it in our house. I have a stash of about 40 unpaper towels (toweleze) and a kitchen wetbag that we use to store the dirty ones in until wash day. I have them all stacked up in the kitchen drawer next to the sink. When you have a mess, you simply grab one out of the drawer and clean it up and depending on how big the mess is you can rinse it out and use it again and again. We also keep a small stack of them in the bathroom next to the sink for hand drying. I use my toweleze to clean the counters – and they really do a great job! I am able to clean the entire kitchen with just one towel! Much easier than the 10 or so paper towels it might take to do the same job. They are also great for washing the dishes – I prefer using ones that have a terry cloth on one side for this type of job as it adds some extra scrubbing power! I use them for many other jobs around the house: dusting, cleaning mirrors and windows, cleaning dirty faces and hands, even in the bath as a washcloth!
After my kitchen wetbag gets full, usually about 3-4 days of towels, I simply add them to my regular load of dirty towels for the week. So I am not even doing an ‘extra’ load of laundry! When they come out of the dryer, I just stack them up (no folding) and put them back in their drawer. It is as simple as that!
If each family made the switch to unpaper towels think of how many we could save from our landfills! Making the switch one family at a time does make a significant impact. If you decided today to start using unpaper towels, you could save yourself over $400 each year! And you would be taking out over 17,000 towels from the landfill.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Saturday, August 20, 2011
I found a great site called Green Party Goods that sells everything from party decorations to forks and plates all of which are ecofriendly. They have great biodegradable plates made from bamboo and utensils made from potatoes or corn! I decided to look for paper products that were made from 100% recycled products, these use 97% less carbon dioxide and 95% less water (try Seventh Generation products, their napkins are made from at least 50% post-consumer products). For my husband’s party we decided to cut our paper all together and plan on using our cloth napkins and our regular dinner plates!
When it came to decorations I was a bit stumped. My three year old loves balloons but everyone knows they aren’t ecofriendly, right? Wrong! I found out that latex is a natural product made from rubber tree sap. It actually breaks down, they are 100% biodegradable!! What about streamers and banners? Why not use fabric! Having a best friend who makes cloth diapers comes in handy sometimes, we can just cut out streamers and banners from the excess fabric we have. We can even select fabrics with patterns to match our party theme! If you aren’t creative check out the felt banners at Green Party Goods. You can use them again every year!!
Last but not least were the goody bags. How many plastic bags jammed full of candy and cheap plastic toys have my kids taken home over the years? Tons!! The toys are used for approximately one hour and then everything ends up in the trash can, they aren’t very ecofriendly. There are tons of ideas online for great ecofriendly goody bags. My daughter decided that she wants a Popsicle party this year so we are giving each of her guests Tovolo Ice Pop Molds (they are reusable, nontoxic and very cute!). My sons says he is too old for goody bags but came up with a ton of great ideas: reusable bags (made from fabric), recycled crayons melted down into cool shapes, homemade bubbles, homemade chalk, little plants or even seeds!
I will be honest with you, when we set out to make our parties ecofriendly we were a little apprehensive (my husband actually rolled his eyes at me) but it didn’t end up being that hard. There was a recyclable, biodegradable option for all of the products that I needed to buy. I spent more time making my decorations but it will be worth it next year when I have stuff already made to use!!
We will be having these parties soon so wish us luck! And send any ecofriendly party ideas you have our way!!