Friday, December 23, 2011

Have a Happy Green Holiday Season!

Remember to recycle all the gift boxes you receive this holiday season, and check with your local authority to see if they recycle gift wrap. A lot of wrap that isn’t laminated and doesn’t contain sparkles or other non-paper add-ons can be recycled with your cardboard! And remember to have a Happy Green Holiday Season!
Warm Wishes,
The Happy Green Life Family

Our families carbon footprint update

It’s time to update you on my families progress in lowering our carbon footprint. Our family has been trying all kinds of new ways to save energy and lower our toxic output. One of my teachers introduced me to a great site
This site allows you to not only input your gas and energy consumption but lets you list the foods that your household eats, where you get your food, how much your shop, what type of car you have and how often your drive.
So, our family is doing a little better but we are still making more of a footprint then we would like. We are currently releasing 32.6 tons of carbon per year!
Another cool aspect of this website is that they give you suggestions how to change your footprint. Our household eats a lot of meat so it suggests that we cut down our consumption by half. If every American did this they would save 645 million global acres of land (that is 484 million football fields!). It suggests that we use public transportation to get to work at least one day. If every American did this we would save over 352 million global acres! Another major contributor to our footprint is my husband commuting to work. If my husband were to carpool half of the month we would save $832 a year and save 1.517 pounds of co2. If everyone were to do this it would be a saving of $83,200,000,000 and 151,700,000 pounds of co2. WOW that is an amazing savings!
We are definitely going to implement these changes; I will update you guys on our progress after the new year!
**Update: After viewing this post Kristin asked, “Why would eating meat reduce your carbon footprint?” Such a great question!! Cattle are a huge producer of methane which is one of the top greenhouse gasses responsible for climate change. So, less meat consumption means less gas in the atmosphere. It is obviously a naturally occurring gas that has been around since the beginning of time. But the last hundred years or so as the demand for meat has increased the gas has too. Plus cattle are responsible for the increase of top soil loss and deforestation.  BUT, meat taste great and is a staple in many of our family’s diets. So if you don’t want to go vegetarian eat your meat responsibly. Try to cut one meat mean out of your weak and buy your meat locally.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Moving is EXPENSIVE! There are so many costs associated with moving and they add up quick! We recently moved and I found a great way to save money and be more GREEN!

Moving boxes are one of the biggest costs of moving! At 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 (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


Ever wonder about what type of toxins are found in the area you live? You need to check out This is an amazing website that allows you to enter your zip code and then provides you with the toxin, air, water, and environmental justice facts for your community.
I put in the zip code for my neighborhood and found out that my county was ranked one of the dirties/worst 10% of all counties in the U.S. The site even provides you with a list of the top polluters in your community, the top polluter in my community released 63,620 lbs of hydrochloric acid into our community (this toxin creates acid rain and smog).
Looking at the site for my community I found that three of the top polluting companies had toxic spills that contaminated our local water ways-this is scary. It is especially scary because I didn’t know about this. I find that this is a major problem, people are not aware of the environmental problems in their communities. If we want to take care of our planet we all need to educate ourselves and become involved. I implore all of our readers to check out the site and find out how your community ranks, if you don’t like what you read take some action. Write your local governments about your concerns, if we don’t take action things will never change.


Saturday, December 17, 2011


We are so excited to start a compost pile! We have built our compost enclosure and started to add a mixture of things to it to get it started. Composting is an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint, create incredibly rich soil for your garden and help you live your happy green life!

Starting a compost is simple by following these easy steps:

Size: A compost pile should be a minimum of 10 feet around and 3-5 feet tall. This allows it to have enough room to decompose properly by creating the proper temperature and air flow.

Location: This is very important! Make sure to pick a good location for your compost pile – away from common areas and play areas. Compost will have a mixture of decaying materials in it and will have that ‘compost’ smell – so you will want to put it somewhere out of whiff.

Materials: There are numerous ways you can create a compost area. You can simply start a neat pile and leave it as is to rotate and maintain. If you want to create a more defined area for it you can build one from plastic fencing or wood. You can also purchase a composting bin at your local hardware store.

What to Compost: Vegetation, grass clippings, leaves, fruits and veggies, paper, coffee grounds, and egg shells all add value to your compost pile. These items will lead to a nutrient rich soil to plant your garden in. Make sure to follow a ratio of 1:1 brown vegetation to green vegetation when creating your compost. Brown materials include leaves, manure, newspaper, cardboard. Green materials include hedge and grass clippings, coffee grounds and fruit and vegetable peals.

What NOT to Compost: Meat, dairy, eggs, pet feces. These items can attract rodents to your pile and will not add to your piles nutrients.

After you get your pile started you let it sit. It will get hot – between 90 and 140 degrees - and you should see steam coming from it! It is very important to turn your compost pile every 4-7 days.

Now that we have started our pile we are excited to see it work! We will update on the progress as it starts cooking and starts the magic of turning into dirt!
Happy Green Composting!

- Kristin

Monday, November 7, 2011

The farm is ready!

Our farm is ready! Two weeks ago the Happy Green Life crew (and some other friends) got our garden ready for our fall crops! Like I mentioned before we started off by contacting our friend Farmer Eric and asking him what we should do. We were instructed to rototill the area that we wanted to plant, test our soil, add fertilizer if we needed it, then remove any large rocks and clumps of grass.
We had some options for how we wanted to plant the garden. My parents plant in raised box beds, they build boxes and then fill them with soil and fertilizer, this seems to be an easy way of doing it but we didn’t want to spend the money on boxes so we went a different route. The last three years I planted directly in the ground (I didn’t raise my beds), this works but I had a little trouble with flooding. So we decided to do raised soil beds. We marked out our beds, 3 feet by 18 feet, and 18 inches apart. We did this by hammering posts into the ground where the corners of the beds would be, then tying string to them, this way we had a perfect guide for our beds. Next we dug a walk way around each of the beds and threw the excess soil into the beds. By doing this we were able to raise our beds approximately 2 feet from the ground and create walkways that double as trenches for water so that our beds don’t flood.
Once we had enough soil in the beds we turned the soil with a fork and then flattened it out with the back of a rake-making sure that we didn’t pack the soil just smooth it flat. Once our beds were ready we measured out where we wanted to plant. For our brassicas (lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and kale) we staggered our plants between three rows 8 inches apart. This leaves them enough room for a medium to large plant.
For our root plants, carrots, beets, radishes we planted in straight rows dropping our seed throughout. Once they have begun to sprout we will thin the rows out allowing the plants enough room to grow approximately 2 inches (some plants up to 8 inches, check the seed pack to see how much space they need).
We have seven beds left, five will be planted with wheat and peas and two will go to herbs (our tomatoes are currently in them). We will be “nicking” the sweat peas outer shell so that they can absorb more water and then planting them 2 inches apart. For our wheat we will be spreading it out across the beds (no rows for this stuff). We will have enough wheat to make approximately 40 loaves of bread!
After everything was planted it was time to water. Farmer Eric taught us to check our soil by taking a handful and clumping it together, if it clumps into a ball then it has moisture, if you are unable to break it up in your hand it has too much moisture and you should hold off on watering. We are to water our veggies once a week for about an hour.
Once our veggies are grown we will be rotating our plants around so that we can add nutrients back to the soil. It will take approximately 60 days to see some veggies. In the meantime we are growing some veggies from seed in the house so that they are ready to plant after the first harvest. We will keep you updated on our farm, wish us luck!  

Energy Savers Booklet

I came across this link in one of my classes and thought that I would share it with everyone. It has some great advice for how to save energy and money at home!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Our Happy Urban Farm

I am getting ready to graduate with my masters in environmental studies and as my classes and projects get more intense so do my desires to live sustainably. Like I have said before I grew up on a mini farm that practiced sustainable living but my poor husband did not. He grew up in the city; his closest interaction with farming was mowing the 5x10 foot lawn in front of his mom’s house.
When I decided to go back to school he was very supportive, I had originally studied government and had talked a lot about law school so he was all smiles at the thought of us boosting our family income. But then I broke the news that I was going to pursue environmentalism. He smiled and said, “Whatever makes you happy, I support you,” but he was thinking, “I have married a hippie lunatic!” He thought this again when I informed him that we were going to tear out his precious back yard lawn and start an urban farm!
So this is our new project, we are going to start urban farming. Our current garden measures 3 x 10 ft. (it runs along the side of our house), but our new one will be 10 x 30. We are starting off with 20 vegetables beds and then a 10 x 10 patch of wheat. We currently have four fruit trees along the back perimeter of our yard, by next summer we plan to have added 10 more. We also plan to add chickens in the spring for eggs and meat. We want to grow enough food to feed the entire Happy Green Life Crew and our extended families, and maybe someday have enough to sell at the farmers market.
What is exciting, besides the prospect of never having to go grocery shopping again, is that all of our family and friends want to be a part of it. All of our friends and family have offered to come and help us. Even friends of friends have gotten excited by the idea of us doing this and have offered to help; we even had offers of land if we find that our dinky back yard is holding us back!
We are so excited, and a little scared, after all this is crazy! Remember my husband is a city boy and while I may have grown up on a farm I spent the majority of the time watching 90210 in my bedroom-far far away from any farm like activity.  Luckily we have friends with knowledge! My husband is in the military and one of his fellow soldiers is a member of the Farmer-Veteran Coalition. This group offers training and grants to veterans who want to become farmers. Our friend Eric has been working for the last two months with us getting all of our preparations for our urban farm. He has taught us everything from soil testing and PH levels, to layouts and crop rotations. This weekend along with the whole Happy Green Life crew we will be putting in our first winter crop! We are all very excited! This is going to be quite an adventure for all of us. After our first crop is in we will be learning how to harvest and then rotate, and then as the spring gets near we will be looking into what to plant as the season changes. We will be looking into chickens and how to build a coop and our resident chef Michael will be teaching us green ways to cook with our garden!
I am so excited to share this crazy adventure with you guys. I am sure it is going to be full of ups and downs but I think it will be fun.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

diapeze GIVEAWAY

Pumpkin Bum diapeze Giveaway!!

Enter for your chance to win a one of a kind pumpkin bum diapeze.

One lucky winner will be selected on Sunday 10/16/11 at 12am est.

The winner will be notified via email and posted on the facebook page.

Prize value $27.00

Will ship complimentary within US and Canada

Facebook is not affiliated with this giveaway in any way.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Happy Green Diaper

So you are thinking about cloth diapers. Hooray! That means you are one step closer to saving money and the environment!

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.
The breakdown:
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

The Dirty Dozen

I have a gross confession to make; I never wash my fruit before I eat it. I know there are pesticides on it, my mom reminded me every time I picked up a store bought apple, but I guess I just didn’t care. I think it’s a little bit laziness, a little ignorance and a lot of the thought, “they wouldn’t sell something edible covered in poison.” After I did my research I can assure you I will be washing all of my fruit from now on!
Pesticides do serve an important purpose. Farmers use pesticide to kill insects, weeds and disease. They stop rats, mice, flies and other insects from eating and contaminating the food and prevent harmful molds and microbes from growing and poisoning humans.  They just aren’t meant to be ingested.
The Environmental Protection Agency has stated that an estimated 10,000-20,000 pesticide poisonings happen each year. The Center for Disease Control reports that pesticides may cause respiratory, gastrointestinal, allergic or neurological symptoms (such as Parkinsons and Alzheimers). In addition to that there are numerous studies linking pesticides to ADD, Asthma, Cancer, and birth defects. These studies aren’t just linking farmworkers who handle the pesticides but regular every day people like you and me who eat fruits and veggies and are exposed.
The Environmental Working Group released a report in 2010 naming the worst fruits and vegetables for pesticide exposure, they have been named the dirty dozen.

The Dirty Dozen
Domestic Blueberries
Sweet Bell Peppers
Spinach, kale and collard greens
Imported Grapes
The produce listed in the Dirty Dozen were found to each contain 47 to 67 separate pesticides per serving, this was after the produce was cleaned with the USDA’s high-power pressure water system. It is thought that the produces soft skin absorbs the pesticide which results in the high number of contaminates. If you love the Dirty Dozen as much as my family does it is recommended that you purchase it organic or grow it yourself. Why take the chance of exposing your family to harmful poison? And remember to always wash your produce!!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

your toxic dumping

Once upon a time companies could dump their toxic waste into water ways. These toxins would make their way through the water ways into the ocean where they would poison the species living in the seas. These creatures would die or would be fished and end up on the tables of families all over the world. So the Clean Water Act was created and companies toxic waste disposal was regulated and it didn’t end up in the sea. At least corporate waste didn’t end up in the sea, individuals household toxic waste still did.
Today, the most harmful pollutants don’t come from companies dumping but from diffused sources such as your kitchen sink and sewer. Remember in Finding Nemo when Gill says, “All drains lead to the ocean,” well he was correct.  When you pour your household toxic waste down the sink or flush it down the toilet it enters either you sewer or septic system. If you are hooked up to a sewage system your toxic waste flows to a central sewage plant is treated and then discharged into your area rivers lakes and streams. Most sewage plants use bacteria and organisms to decompose waste at the treatment facilities, toxic waste can pass through  these and end up right in the ocean! If you use a septic system your toxic waste goes into your buried tank, the solids settle and the remaining fluids go into a drain filed. Toxins can then pass into your soil and then move to your ground water. The toxins can then pass to your waterways and head to the ocean or flow to your garden and contaminate your plants (so much for using organic fertilizer, your plants are getting toxins anyways). So how do we avoid this? Dispose of your house hold toxins properly!
 The Environmental Protection Agency says to “reduce, reuse and recycle.”
Reduce the amount of toxic products. Start by purchasing less products that contain toxic ingredients. Take the time to look for toxic alternatives, the green industry is booming and there are tons of all natural products out there!
Use up your entire product. When products are used fully and properly as they are intended there is no hazardous waste. Store the products that you have properly. Keep the bottles tightly sealed in their original containers and never remove their labels.
Recycle your waste. Check with your local waste management department to see how to recycle your toxic waste. In the state of California we have a Household Hazardous Waste Program that recycles all kinds of items like batteries, light bulbs, items containing mercury (thermometers, greeting cards that play music, and shoes with lighted soles), electronic devices, aerosol cans, and tons of other items (if you live in California and want a full list of items visit the California EPA site Many cities have toxic waste pick up right alongside your recycling and trash. Also check with your local mechanic and gas station many will recycle your used car batteries, oil and transmission fluid.
Keeping the toxins out of our waterways is our responsibility. Do your part in keeping our oceans clean and our fish friends healthy!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


My family and I take a walk every evening, recently I noticed that there was a lot of trash along the sidewalk. My husband suggested that we have a police call (a police call is where everyone goes outside and picks up the trash within a designated area). That evening when we went out we brought trash bags and gloves. We ended up collect two garbage bags full of trash and one of recycling along our one mile walking route. Our three year old had a blast! You would never think a kid would have so much fun picking up trash, but it was like a giant scavenger hunt for her. She loved guessing if an item what trash or recycling and she loved to hear us cheer for her when she got the answer right!
After our police call we came home and did a little research on trash, here is what we found out:
The number one form of litter is fast food waste
Besides fast food waste the most common trash are cigarette butts, plastic bags, paper, candy wrappers, and bottle caps.
On average in one day 7 million pounds of litter are removed from beaches, lakes and streams
Animals from nearly 442 species are entangled in or ingest trash in water annually; the majority of these animals will die
People under the age of 15 are least likely to litter, people over the age of 25 are most likely to litter
In a poll conducted in 2010 people said that they litter because there is already a presence of trash, it is the easiest way to get rid of their unwanted things and because it is a social activity that they learned from their parents.
I have to tell you that some of the facts shocked me. Littering is a big no no in our house and was definitely forbidden in my home when I was growing up, it shocks me when I see someone do it so it surprised me how much litter is removed on average in a day. I was equally shocked by the fact that people over the age of 25 are most likely to litter, you would think this group of individuals would know better! The most important thing I learned was that people litter because their parents did. Children watch their parents do everything; even something as simple as tossing a cigarette butt out the window will be engrained in their subconscious and will be repeated when they are older. We must teach our children that littering is bad, and we need to do it by setting a litter free example.
Trash is gross; it belongs in a trashcan, recycling bin or compost not on the sidewalk or street. It harms animals and makes our neighborhoods ugly. I am proud to say that we have been picking up trash every night now for two weeks and we have inspired three other families on our block to do the same! When you ask my three year old what you do with trash she enthusiastic answers, “put it in the trash can!” It is our job to clean up our planet and teach our children to do the same. I heard this great quote the other day, “If every person picked up just one piece of litter today, there would be over 300 million fewer pieces of litter. If every person picked up 10 pieces of litter, there would be 3 billion fewer pieces damaging our environment. If you and your friends spend just one hour picking up litter in your own neighborhood, you will not only pick up thousands of pieces of trash, you will also make a tremendous impact on your community!”

Monday, September 5, 2011

Organic or All Natural?

There has been a major debate in the food world on what is better for your body and environment Organic or All Natural. I thought I would put some facts together to help you make an informed decision for your family. Within the past year we have been living a greener life not only to help our health but the environment as well, recently my family and I had the opportunity to visit an all organic farm to do some research on what the big difference is in Organic versus All Natural products and what we found just like any other opinion was a biased view.

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.
For instance:
· 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. 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.
For instance:
· 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

How to Compost

Add approximately 60% leaves or browns and 40% grass and food scraps
I grew up on a little farm (at least that is what my brother and I called it). We had sheep and goats, chickens, and turkeys and tons of gardens. In addition to the apple and plum trees that covered the property, my mom had vegetable gardens which produced enough for us to live off of. Nestled in the back of the property was the compost pile. My brother or I would collect the coffee grounds from breakfast and the veggie scraps from the day’s meals and take them up to the compost pile. That is where my contribution to the compost ended, I had no clue how the grounds and peels became lush compost (and to be honest as a teenage girl I didn’t really care). When I planted my own garden last year I had no clue how to fertilize it but I knew it could somehow be done with compost. So I looked it up and built myself a pile!

You know your compost is done when it is a lush dark brown color!

So how do you do it? If you have a large enough yard you can simply make a compost pile or construct a bin; our family uses an old wine barrel planter. If you don’t have room for a big pile or bin you can try worm composting (this is great for apartments).
If you have the room begin by looking for you location, you will want it to be a level, well drained surface. This can be in the sun or shade-I have read that you don’t want it to be in direct sunlight but ours is and as long as we make sure it stays moist it is ok.
Add approximately 60% leaves or browns and 40% grass and food scraps. Add water as you build up your pile. You want to make sure that the moisture is evenly distributed throughout your pile, and that it is about as moist as a wrung out sponge.
Now mix it up! Periodically you need to turn your pile, this adds oxygen which is needed by the organisms that break the matter down to survive. It also reduces the odor and break up the compacted material.
A worm bin is basically the same. Take a bin with a lid and drill some holes in it. Add some dirt and newspaper and then your worms. Feed your worm’s fruit, vegetables, cereals grains and other organic items. It is smart to cover the food with a newspaper or cardboard to keep the bin dark and moist, this will also discourage fruit flies.
You will know your compost is ready to be added to your garden when it is a lush dark brown color!
Here are a few things that you can add to your compost bin:
Vegetable peels, raw veggies, teabags, lawn cuttings, twigs, leaves, old flower, shredded newspaper, cardboard, junk mail, shredded documents, egg shells, coffee grounds, and lint from your dryer.
Make sure you do not compost meat, dairy products, laminated plastic (juice cartons and magazines) oils or fats.
Happy Green composting!!

Friday, August 26, 2011

How to recycle

Remember when you learned about the 3 R’s – reduce, reuse, recycle – in school? Did you realize then how important those three R’s would be later in life? Probably not! Most of us just learned it, and then poof, out of sight out of mind.
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 -

Here is an at a glance view on items that you can and cannot recycle
· Corrugated cardboard (boxes)
· Magazines
· Office paper (all colors)
· Newspapers
· 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
· Electronics
· 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
· Crystal
· 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 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

As a resident and chef in California, I feel privileged to have the amazing opportunity to work with some of the best farmers on the planet, the product these guys produce and the impact they have on the planet in incredible.
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.
- Mike

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

UnPaper towels

Unpaper towels are a cloth alternative to paper towels. But do they really do as good of a job? Are they really better for the environment? Can they really save you money?
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.
- Kristin

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Carbon footprint

I ran the calculations for my household’s carbon footprint and I am very ashamed. It is bad. Before I tell you what it is, I will make you a promise that we will change it. We will make the changes necessary to cut our co2 emissions because if we don’t we are contributing greatly to the destruction of our earth. Ok here goes, my household carbon footprint is 49 tons of co2 a year. According to the EPA that is equivalent to 115 barrels of oil.
What the heck am I taking about? Let me explain. Scientist have been keeping detailed records of the climate since the 1860’s with that data they are able to see that in the last 100 years the world temperature has raised by .6 degrees Celsius. Paeoclimatologists (scientist who study climate change though out the ages) can look at ice and trees to see what the climate was like in the past before we were keeping a record of it. Scientist look at all of this information and can make predictions about what will happen to our planet. So what does this have to do with co2 and a carbon footprint? In the past 100 years when scientist noted a raise in worldwide temperatures they also noted an increase in co2 emissions, the two are connected. The more carbon dioxide that we produce the more the climate can rise which can cause heat waves, a raise in sea level, the destruction of habitats. The Environmental Defense Organization estimates that climate change puts 20 % to 30% of our world species at risk of extinction. We are already seeing species being affected, like polar bears, who were added to the Endangered Species Act list in 2008. It doesn’t just affect plants and animals, the raise in temperature can affect humans health, the spread of disease, even our air quality. The list of potential impacts that the rise in climate can have is large and scary.
So what can we do? Lower our carbon footprint. Look at the things in your life that produce carbon dioxide and stop using them, if that isn’t possible try using them less. Here are a few suggestions:
Use and electric mower instead of gas, start a compost pile, plant a tree, buy locally grown produce, only use your dishwasher when it is totally full, plant a tree, stop using plastic water bottles, take a direct flight when flying, pack lighter when flying, buy seasonal food, eat one less serving of meat a week, read your newspaper and magazines online, bring your own mug to starbucks, use a slow cooker or crock pot to make food, only boil one cup of water at a time instead of a full pot, only heat the room you are in, drive below the speed limit, re use ziplock bags, and collect rain water to water your garden.
To see what your household’s carbon footprint is check out the Marion Institutes Carbon Calculator at
I will keep everyone updated on our family’s efforts in lowering our carbon footprint. I hope that a year from now our footprint with be below the national average!!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Party time

It is birthday season here at A Happy Green Life, in the next month we will be celebrating both of our husband’s birthdays and three of our kids’. While planning my family’s parties I realized that while I am an expert at planning a rockin’ party I have no idea how to throw one that is ecofriendly. In our family we have three birthdays within two weeks so we are strapped for cash. I needed to figure out how to go green without spending too much money, so I turned to the internet. Instead of ordering invitations like I usually do I sent our guests all e-vites from For my hubby’s party we created a Facebook event and had all of our friends reply online. I love invitations, I am always looking for the cutest ones that I can use for my kids’ parties but I am pretty sure I am the only person at the party who pays attention to them. Think about how much paper is wasted from the invitation, envelope, and stamps; by using online invitations you can cut out all the waste.
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!!

Friday, August 19, 2011

the beginning of a happy green life

By 2009 Kristin and Amanda had careers, homes, husbands and our first babies. We realized that we needed to start making decisions that would help our families live happy lives that they could afford. Kristin decided to start cloth diapering to save money, it didn’t take long for her to realize that her decisions had an impact on the environment, soon her eyes were opened to other reusable products that would save her money and help the environment. By 2010 Kristin had opened a cloth diaper company that specializes in custom designed diapers and also carries eco friendly products like all natural laundry detergent and unpaper towels.  Amanda grew up with a very eco-conscious family but as she began to start her own family, making eco-friendly decisions was not as important.  Amanda was working towards getting her master’s degree in politics when she took an elective environmental studies course. This reintroduced her to principles that had been important to her family growing up and she decided to change her degree to environmental studies.  She realized that her family needed to make some changes. She began cloth diapering, recycling and purchasing the family food from the farmers market and butcher.
As we began changing our lives to be greener we realized how much money we were saving and how significant of an impact we were making. We also realized how many people thought that going green was difficult and expensive. It became apparent that while going green was becoming more popular it still had a bad rep for being too extreme for the average family.
So, we decided to make a blog. We would experiment with different ways of going green, some would be difficult big changes (like eliminating paper products) and some would be simple like turning off the lights when they left a room. This is our adventure in living a happy green life, we hope you enjoy reading about our journey!
We look forward to any suggestions for living a happy green life that you want to share.  Please email us at or