Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Green Cement Update

Thought I'd give a (late) update on my post about the green cement. Last week the Denton City Council voted to buy cement from companies that use the more eco-friendly dry-kiln techniques. Yea! 

Those of you who contacted the City of Denton's council, feel free to pat yourself on the back...

Monday, December 8, 2008

Free Shipping*

So, I've talked about this shoe company before. Simple Shoes, I love their stuff! Right now they are having free shipping for a limited time. Yes! Oh wait - I'm supposed to be not buying anything for myself and only for my dear loved ones...drat! hmmm, maybe the littlest man will buy some for me for Christmas. Anyway, check out the site AND this little video they made.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Denton Green Cement?

This week the Denton City Council postponed a vote on new "green" cement requirements for city contracts. They did this because Ash Grove Cement is suing Dallas, Ft Worth, and Plano, among others for similar requirements.

Ash Grove "alleges that the green cement resolutions violate Texas law, which it says require municipal bodies to evaluate only the competence of the bidder and the quality and price of its products or services." I say requiring bidders to comply with certain requests for the makeup of the product is well within the rights of anyone, including municipal bodies. And what of the quality of other things, like the environment and other costs, such as higher health care costs due to poor air quality

They are the last hold out in the area with wet kilns – the dirtiest way to make cement. This kiln has been around since 1965. 1965!? In between then and now you couldn't invest in some new freaking technology?

Now, they have reduced Iron Oxide emissions by about half in the last few years, but I wonder how much more they could reduce emissions with newer technology and processes?

So, if you want your elected officials to stand up and require city contracts to use more eco-friendly cement manufacturing practices, contact them this week! And then come back and let me know what you said!

Sources: http://www.kansascity.com/business/story/919552.html; http://www.dentonrc.com/sharedcontent/dws/drc/localnews/stories/DRC_cement_1204.289ec206.html

Sunday, November 23, 2008

How does your Garden Grow?

I found this new site where you can track your garden progress. I've already put in this fall's plantings and my wishlist for this spring. I'm a bit geeky so this is right up my alley. Check it out for yourself!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Happy America Recycles Day!

This is obviously an industry funded 'holiday', but it's a good cause. So if you don't normally recycle your stuff, find a Texas event near you. There's one in Ft.Worth and Carrollton.

Plus, the national site has places where you can make recycling pledges and a "Conversionator" - a cute drag and drop game where you find out how much you save by recycling.

So, go forth and RECYCLE!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

More plastic news

A friend sent this link asking me for my opinion. My response was "Well, As far as anyone can tell those are safer. The problem comes in a couple things: 1) you don't really know – I mean the FDA still says BPA isn't an issue. 2) even if they are safer, they still break down over time and we don't know what they are breaking down into."

I did more research, the link was from 2003. I found this article from just this last week. It says the FDA is criticizing its statement about BPA safety. Studies have come out linking BPA to diabetes and heart disease. The article refers to a finding of BPA in the blood of "92% of American over the age of 5" (this wasn't attributed to anything in the article, but it doesn't seem too far off to me).

Then I saw this on Enviroblog from yesterday. (BTW, if you don't visit EWG and Enviroblog often – run don't browse! your way there now {well after you finish reading this}). Recently a university lab group discovered chemicals leaking from plastic lab equipment and ruining a drug experiment.

BPA? Nope! Quaternary ammonium – an anti-microbial agent and oleamide – a plastic softening agent. And they didn't come from #7 plastic, either. Rather from polypropylene or #5 plastic ( a previously "safe" plastic). How much #5 plastic do you have? I have (soon to be gone) a ton.

Like the article writer I am getting pretty darn tired of hearing about things that are in products that is being kept from me. Tell me what you're making the stuff from and what its risks are and I'LL decide if it's worth the risk for me and my family.

I think the FDA and other governmental agencies need to get to doing their job of protecting the public and start paying attention to science. We've had an 8yr drought of scientific thought and I for one cannot wait until it's back! Hopefully, we can get past the damage done.

So I'll be getting rid of most of my plastic, even the none #5 stuff, my view is why risk it? We got rid of a ton of stuff with the BPA issue, but I kept the random sour cream containers and such. I just felt it was wasteful to recycle those right away without reusing them. Now, I'll just put them in the recycling bin as I try to think of other sources that don't include plastic.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

BPA-Free Organic Pumpkin Puree

It's Pumpkin Time!
And what better way to celebrate than to make some BPA-free pumpkin puree for the holidays?

We got an organic sweet pumpkin in our co-op delivery this weekend. Since we split the deliveries with a friend, we really got a half a pumpkin - but it was plenty.

And what do you do with half a pumpkin? My friend is making soup, but I'm not really a soup girl. But I do like me some pumpkin pie, mmmmmmmm. So, I roasted it - see instructions below. You can actually do this with other kinds of pumpkins too - like the one you carved, but that brings in some sanitary issues for me.

Pumpkin Puree

Heat oven to 450 degrees.
Scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp. You'll want to save this for toasted pumpkin seeds later. DO NOT THROW this goodness away!

Cover with foil - no spices needed, but I think if you're using a carving pumpkin you'd want to add some sugar. They aren't raised for flavor, you know.

Roast until insides are soft. It took mine 1.5 hours. I took it out at 1 hr and started to scoop it out, but the meat closer to the skin wasn't quite ready I think. I noticed it was a bit stringy, so I put it back in for 30 mins.
Scoop out pulp with an ice cream scoop. Puree with a blender or a food processor until smooth. You don't want any strings so you may have to strain the puree to get these out - I didn't have that issue.

I got about 3 cups of puree with my half of the pumpkin. Enough for a pie and maybe some of these pumpkin muffins.

I've always heard that canned pumpkin puree was as good as the fresh, but since this was so easy and with all the nasty BPA lurking in those cans - Why not just do it yourself? Plus you get some yummy seeds to snack on.

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Separate seeds from pulp. I cover the seeds with water in a bowl, they kind of float to the top and I get my hands in there to remove the yuck and then put the seeds on a cookie sheet.
Toss with olive oil, enough to coat. Season with your preferred seasoning. Shinerman prefers All-Purpose Season Salt, yes I know it's made of horrible chemicals - oh well. I think a good combo would be cayanne and salt. What about you?

Toast in the oven with the pumpkin for about 15-20 mins.
I tossed the stringy pulp and shell into the compost pail so this was NO Waste project! WOOHOO!

Thursday, October 23, 2008


So this morning I went out to the garden and picked the last of the ready-to-eat pole beans. Then we had them for dinner!! I just don't know if it gets much better than that. I had about 1/2 a lb, maybe more maybe less. It was enough for us and even enough for Shinerman to have seconds.

For dinner you say? We had some lamb stew meat from Burgundy Pasture Beef, marinated with olive oil, rosemary, thyme, and mint (from the herb garden). I seasoned the green beans with the leftover herbs. All this was roasted at 500deg. It took about 30mins, prep included. I rounded it out with pita bread, hummus, lettuce and red onion.

Speaking of the garden, we have several plants in there growing some sort of vegetable that we can't identify. They look sort of like tomatoes, but we didn't plant any. I'll have to do some research and figure it out - although it might come to light when they're ripe.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

bags in cereal boxes

We eat a box of cereal almost every two weeks here at the Green H. I buy the organic stuff - brand and type depend on my mood. This week I bought Envirokidz Koala Crisps. No, they aren't really healthy, but they looked good and I was feeling generous towards the littlest man.

We recycle the boxes, but what to do with the bags? You can't recycle them, so I went on the web looking for some ideas. I stumbled on this site. It's out of commission and archived so I decided to list the uses here instead of just linking.

I've used them for a couple of these, including crushing crackers and freezing food.
What about you? Because I know you're not throwing them away, right? :)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

HFCS anyone?

So your FND sent me this link. It gives us another reason to cut back on High Fructose Corn Syrup. It's making us FAT!! Well, that and you know all the other nasty-ness we shove too much of into our mouths.

Apparently our bodies digest HFCS differently than regular fructose (sugar). But it's natural you say! Please remember people this stuff is processed - putting that much work into an ingredient just screws it up.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Too many clothespins!

We have a really cute tote bag with a front pocket that we use for our clothespins. But since we dry so many clothes on the line we needed more clothespins. Of course then the darn things didn't fit into the pocket anymore and the bag is just sort of hanging from the hanger hook.

A solution has presented itself - a clothespin bag made out of a kids button-down shirt. It's genius! I get a new bag and make use out of one the littlest man's out-grown shirts.

Now I just have to borrow a sewing machine...or perhaps one of my friends who sew could do it for me? hmmm, indeed...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Where oh where...

have I been you ask?

bleh - I've been in Boston working 13+ hours and falling asleep in bed while I tried to get more work done.

But enough whining, I'm back baby!

Thanks to all ya'll who wrote me asking what the heck was I doing - Love you too!

Got mags?

Have some magazines hanging around that you haven't gotten around to recycling yet? Well, Denton is hosting a magazine exchange just in time for cleaning up prior to the ramp-up to the holiday season.

When: October 25th 9am-12pm
Where: Emily Fowler Public Library

Any leftovers will be recycled.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Not so Sweet Surprise

Not so Sweet Surprise that the corn industry, by way of the Corn Refiners Association, is up in arms. Apparently the backlash against High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) has caused them to get two websites going and I recently saw my second commercial today. The first pro-HFCS commercial had me absolutely flabbergasted and falling back on the couch. The biggest problem with the Popsicle she's pushing in the park is there is nothing in it that really belongs in your body! Red #40, anyone? YUM!

The commercials essentially say it's OK to make fun of people who are choosing to consume as little HFCS as possible; saying 'it's ok in moderation'. Sure, anything is OK in moderation, including arsenic – but that doesn't mean you should go ahead and consume a ton of it. Which is something they don't mention; it's in EVERYTHING – you basically cannot get away from HFCS.

If you want to be able to eat store-bought food, you essentially have to be a detective to find anything on the shelf that does not contain HFCS. They talk about how it's great – the same as sugar and honey AND it acts as a preservative. Unfortunately, the preservative use has exploded the use of High Fructose Corn Syrup, causing the average American to consume far too much.

They say 'it's natural'. Yes, natural and PROCESSED to oblivion. To paraphrase Michael Pollan in Omnivore's Dilemma: Essentially all of our processed food is made of corn in some sort of fashion. If all you're food has corn in it, there is no way to moderate you're intake.

And in this pro-HFCS article they insist that Moms shouldn't worry about what the kids eat, so much as the caloric count of what they eat. So, maybe a 50 cal pre-made dessert with HFCS instead of a 50 cal banana?! That really doesn't make sense. In this pro-HFCS commercial, one mom is pouring grape drink for a kid's party. How about this – some REAL grape juice or apple juice? Why does it have to be fake?

Now, I like Popsicles and other not-so-healthy foods like any other person. But don't insult my intelligence by saying that it's perfectly fine in moderation - especially since moderation is impossible when it is essentially included in every processed food you eat.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Clothesline Challenge Update

We've done really well with the clothesline. Back when we first started, I thought we had left some clothes at my mother-in-laws or perhaps just a random location. Where were they? I found them in the dryer about 2 months later.

We've only had to use the dryer once since we started using the line. It was raining EVERY FREAKING DAY and the littlst man had NO clothes. So, into the dryer they went - don't judge.

I am worried about this winter. We don't get crazy cold winters here, but to me it's still very cold. I also don't know how long they will take to dry. I guess we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Laundry Detergent Update

I had a comment from Joy asking if you can use the laundry detergent in the new HE machines. That what Shinerman and I have and it works just fine, not had any problems. One piece of advise: Keep the door to the place where you put the detergent in open. You'll probably need to smush (very technical scientific term, yes?) the detergent when the water starts flowing. My first load had about a third of the detergent caked in the cup after the wash was done. The clothes came out fine and we didn't rewash them.

Another thing I did was buy one of those Downy balls. I'm not sure our machine really understands that I want to use the fabric softener cup, and we haven't been able to figure out how to make it work since we bought the machine. I put some lemon essential oil in my white vinegar bottle and use the vinegar as fabric softener.

I put the lemon in there because, apparently, I don't enjoy the smell of the outdoors. When I get the clothes off the line, all I smell is "little outdoor boy" smell - not pleasant. But I'm please to say that not only are my line-dried clothes softer, but they also smell like lemon - yummy.

Full disclosure - the towels are still crunchy. Not as crunchy, but still crunchy nonetheless. We've learned to deal with it, so can you!

Happy laundry day to you!!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Holy Compost, Batman!

If I had money THIS is what I would buy. A composter that you just plug in? You can compost kitty litter???!!!! No more yuck in the backyard?! I am sold – why have I not heard of this before? Apparently it was on Oprah's Earth Day special - but seeing as I work for a living I didn't see the show.

It doesn't really get much better than this. A machine that you put your waste into and out comes nice yummy compost without the nasty things you get in the backyard compost bin (ours at least). The only killer is the price, but if you buy one of the neat tumbler things it's $200 bucks right there. Just another hundred and you got the base model of the NatureMill. The Pet-Friendly version is $399, but I think it's worth it. We have just one cat and I hate putting all that litter in the trash - it easily doubles our weight from the regular trash bag. And bonus - if you have two friends that want one too (any model) you can get a discount if you let them know you're together. (see website for more details)

I think I know what is going on my Christmas list. Oh, Santa…

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I've been using vinegar as a general purpose cleaner for a while and have even tried making my own dishwashing detergent. Not so successful with that last one. The stuff doesn't seem to want to rinse off of my dishes.

But, I can claim success with making my own laundry detergent! Woohoo! I've had the ingredients for a while, but was pretty intimidated and worried that it wouldn't work – although that shouldn't have made me not do it; the worst that could really happen is that I'd have to rinse the washer out a few times and rewash the clothes.

Anyway, I stumbled upon this site, where she (I'm assuming) had 10 different recipes for laundry detergent. I've seen several, but the powdered ones all call for using Fels Naptha laundry soap. If you look at the ingredients it's essentially oil in bar form, it's made up of mostly petroleum products – not what I would call 'green'. So, I bought Dr. Bronner's Castile soap and then proceeded to not make the detergent. However, on this site, it gave the recipe for powdered detergent calling for Fels Naptha, but THEN said you could try whatever soap you wanted! The heavens parted.

So yesterday I made some laundry detergent, my recipe is below. It didn't take very long at all, about 20 mins, including time to take these pictures. I spent the most time grating the soap using my micro planer, but if you have a decent food processor you could use that. I then mixed up the rest of the ingredients and - tada - Laundry Detergent.

My Laundry Detergent recipe:

1 bar pure castile soap, finely grated
1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda
½ cup powdered oxygen bleach – chlorine-free
20-30 drops lemon essential oil

I'll let you know how it goes...

Friday, August 29, 2008

Saw the Unforseen

I posted about this documentary a couple of times and now I've finally seen it. We watched it earlier this month on the Sundance channel. It was interesting. It is about the real estate development of Barton Springs in Austin. But, it doesn't focus on only the development's environmental effects, but also the way changing views and laws effect people and their livelihoods. Don't get me wrong - in the end it's the environmentalists who are the heroes and are shown to be correct. They have video of someone swimming underwater in the 70's (I'm assuming by the bathing suit style) and then current underwater video and the difference in water clarity is striking. I do have one complaint - they go back in forth in time quite a bit and are not clear at all about what is happening when. All in all - I recommend seeing this one.If you can find it again. I'm sure it'll be on Netflix soon if not already.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Our Garden

We finally got our garden planted for the late summer plantings (I say we, but it was really just Shinerman). We planted pole beans, lettuce, carrots, chives, cilantro, okra, broccoli, broccoli raab, and beets. I bought certified organic seed packets at Central Market.

I tried to talk Shinerman into planting the lettuce just a few seeds at a time so we could have successive harvesting, but he doesn't think that they'll grow very well at all. So we'll see, we might have a plethora of lettuce to share with friends and neighbors.

I think that's a big part of having a garden, sharing your bounty. I think the very nature of gardening and harvesting really requires you to share. Because you don't want all that okra or lettuce to go to waste, right? Sorry about the little tangent - I'm taking hydrocodone after getting my wisdom teeth reomoved and I'm feeling a little out of it.

Anyway, we already have some okra and pole bean sprouts! woohoo! Unfortunatly, the only way I know of cooking okra is to fry it. I'll have to do some research...

Hear are some pics of our garden.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Rogue Basil

Back several months ago I bought one basil plant in a pot. It grew and Shinerman split it in two and planted in new pots. Now every once in a while I'll see rogue basil plants in the yard. There is no rhyme or reason behind their locations.

I've seen them in the middle of the yard close to nothing...hiding under the deck...

and there is now a giant one in the middle of an ant bed.
Also, when we went on vacation last month we did not get anyone to water the plants. Of course, when we got back the basil was dead - or was it? NOPE! It's back, growing right on top of the 'dead' branches. I'm telling ya - if you want to grow herbs do not hesitate! Get 'em in the ground or a pot and you won't be disappointed. We also have two 5 yr old rosemary plants that have survived our neglect and a 3 year old jumping on them. I highly recommend adding rosemary to your herb garden.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Unforeseen

If you weren't able to make it to the Angelika for this showing - I didn't either - you can see it tonight on the Sundance channel. Right after It's Not Easy Being Green. See the trailer here.

Monday, August 4, 2008

bring out the good paper plates, honey

Everytime I see one of these commercials, I get really ticked. It pretty much says "Let's trash the earth so I don't have to do the dishes" I don't really understand why you can't read your kid a story at bedtime AND do the dishes. And honestly, as old as some of these kids are in the commercials, they should be helping with the dishes anyway. The littlest man helps as much as he's able. But really - if you run out of time to get the dishes done before you're too dead tired (been there many a time), it's OK to have dishes in the sink. There is no Dish-Gestapo who will break through your windows to berate you for not having a sparkling efffin' kitchen!!

And their whole line about preventing diease through a paper cup...I'm 30-some odd-years old and have NEVER used a cup to rinse after brushing my teeth. And I'm pretty healthy, too.

In the interest of full disclosure, I do have paper plates. I have some leftover from my non-green days that we pretty much only use when we camp. We also have more enviromentally friendly plates I bought for a camping/bbq. I got them at Wal-Mart. I don't remember how much they cost, but they couldn't have been to expensive.

On another note, sorry I've been AWOL for so long! No excuse, just life. I plan to do better in the future!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Oh, the mounds of trash

We just had the littlest man's birthday last weekend. We had a great time at one of those indoor bounce places. I made the cupcakes and went with very minimal decorations and took home the plastic to recycle. That was about as green as we could do this year. Next year I'll try to go further, but you know, baby steps.

We only bought the man one gift, a wood and metal pot and pan set. Thank god! Because he got tons from everyone else, which is nice, but now we have to figure out where to put it all, and I already cleaned out his toy bins before the party – not enough, though.

And I want to say – Little Tykes you need to cut it with the packaging overload!! He received a turtle carrier with a bunch of 'modeling dough' - very cute by the way, but definitely not recyclable. It quite literally had a third of my kitchen table covered in plastic (not recyclable) and cardboard – all this for stuff that cannot break! I should have taken a picture. Each of the little dough mounds was in its own plastic bag INSIDE its own little canister!! Totally unnecessary, and none of this (except the cardboard) was recyclable!! UGH!!!

Tuesday Night TV, My Favorite

So, yes, I do try very hard to be at home watching TV Tuesday nights at 8pm. Come on, I don't have a TiVo and I'm lovin' me some Sundance channel The Green. I would also love to be able to see Discovery's Planet Green channel (sweet website by the way), but alas DirecTV doesn't have that one on our plan and I'm not going to pay more for just one channel.

Anyway, The Green is three hours of great greenness. They have several shows and usually an interesting documentary, as well. My favorite by far is the show It's Not Easy Being Green. It's a reality show about this family in England who moved out to the country and is trying to live completely green and off-grid. They do some really interesting things, for example they built themselves a waterwheel to create electricity for the house. As Shinerman says though, they are able to do most of the things they do because of they're location; they have a stream AND a natural spring on their land. This week, they hooked up a wind turbine to run the battery for a pump that is taking water from the spring and supplying the house with water. I'm green with envy.

Of course it's a ton of work and they have a bunch of people who come and help, including two family friends who moved in with them to join the fun. They have two pretty cute kids in college – a guy (who is literally half-naked for the majority of the show) and a girl – for those who might be interested in something of that nature. See related image below. This next week they are supposed to be killing the pigs they've been raising. Mmmm, bacon…

Speaking of interesting Green viewing items, the Angelika is showing The Unforeseen this week. It is about the real estate development of Barton Springs in Austin. The director was on KERA's THINK Wednesday morning. I hope to be able to see the film, it sounded like something that should open up some people's eyes.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Pick your own fruit!

Since my decision to go ahead and make some jam and freeze and/or can some fruit, I've found a great resource for farms you can visit to have a day of picking fun. While many of the early summer crops are already done, there are some late ripening blackberries and of course peaches. It'll have to wait for us until July, though. We're going camping this weekend HOT!!!!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My Canning Commitment

I grew up eating my Nanny's plum jams (the absolute best thing to ever touch your tongue) and apple butters, but of course I never asked her how to do it or, unfortunately, make her peach cobbler. She literally had an entire closet full of things she had put up from the garden. The apples, peaches and plums came from the orchard she had – all this on two acres! I've thought about canning some things or even freezing them, but always been a bit intimidated. It looks like a lot of instructions and equipment to work with. But I've been inspired. Heather from Enviromom has been telling tales about her strawberry freezer jam, and apparently you don't even have to cook the freezer jam. YEA!! So now all I need is some extra fruit and time – neither of which I have right now. The littlest man is turning 3 this week and I've been busy trying to get his party together. But that's another post for another time.

Hmm, maybe a Saturday morning family fun outing is in our future? Yes, yes there is – I'm committing to it – I promise to let you know how it goes! Now I'd better stop writing about this – my mouth is watering!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Why does the government...

...make it so hard to eat?

I saw this post on Enviroblog about food irradiation. It talks about how the government is in progress of relaxing the labeling rules on food treated with radiation. Food treated with radiation you ask? Sure, like you taking a billion x-rays at once or perhaps walking through an open nuclear reactor - you know, like a Sunday stroll. Right now this food must be labeled with the icon below and/or "Treated with Radiation" or "Treated by Irradiation" . They are lobbying to change the label to just 'pasturized' or simply nothing at all.

A while back I heard on NPR about how mangoes from India were about to be coming into the US. Well, apparently the thing holding those mangoes back originally were fruit flies and other nasty pests. The US is planning on taking care of those pests with a little irradiation. They are also pushing the process to take care of e. coli and salmonella issues, instead of getting companies to practice good hygiene.

I've read some defense of the actions, including that the FDA studied and approved the process. Really? Because they've been so trustworthy lately.

If you choose to take some action ( I recommend doing so) click here to send a message to the FDA. Remember, they won't know you care unless you say something!

Picky Eaters beware!

Let me start with full disclosure. I was a picky eater when I was a kid and on into my twenties. I didn't start eating different things until I went on Weight Watchers and even now I'm still finding new things to eat in my food co-op share. I ate beets for the first time really last night - pretty yummy! BUT, the littlest man does not have my issues with food. He'll try anything, he doesn't always like it, but he will try it. Unlike this article, I don't credit this with my great tasting breast milk or (obviously) living in an exotic land. I credit it to the fact that we don't make him special meals and we don't have tons of junk food in the house on which to fill up. Our philosophy is that you don't have to eat whatever is on your plate, but that's all you get - there is no snacking later. So sometimes early on, he would go hungry. But he would definitely eat what was on his plate at the next meal.

What does this have to do with being green?

When you think of the things that some folks put on kids plates in an effort to get them to eat, you think of all sorts of fake foods. Boxed pasta with powdered cheese and 'chicken' nuggets? There is nothing green about those two things.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

How does your house get clean?

I'm finally catching up on work and personal email after my trip to Mexico (no I didn't buy carbon offsets - I know I suck) and visited BabyCenter - it went green! Just kidding, it was just a couple of posts. But, I saw in the comments of this blog post that people are just in LOVE with bleach. I have memories growing up of a sink full of a bleach/water mixture 'cleaning' our white enamel sink. I hated having to put my hand down in that to pull the stopper - it hurt! - and I did occasionally ask my dad to do it for me. I've never liked the smell of bleach; so I've never used it in my house as a general cleaner, just in the laundry. I did, however, use a plethora of chemicals to clean our three bedroom two bath home. Scrubbing bubbles, toilet cleaner, formula ### - you name it. But several years ago - the dot com bust actually - we went through some not so fun times and one of the things I did was make my own cleaning products. So I've really been using vinegar for a while, but I have recently discovered baking soda. I now use it when I clean the bathroom; the tub, toilet and sink, and the kitchen as well. My friends joke about how we should have a soap-making party (they joke, not so much me) and I recently read about a group doing Green Cleaning parties. It's like a Tupperware or Avon party - only not earth-killing. But I'm not sure if I could justify the cost of paying for that when I could just do it myself, we'll see.

Anyway, so how do YOU clean your house? Any ideas on a decent do-it-yourself dishwasher detergent?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Recycling in North Texas

According to the environmental group, Natural Resources Defense Council, in five years recycling could be easier on the budget than throwing things in the landfill. Of course, even right now recycling is cheaper in terms of the cost to our environment, so if you aren't already recycling get a move on!

And please don't use, "my city doesn't pick it up" as an excuse. I have a good friend who lives in an apartment and she was dedicated enough to buy her own bins and then takes them to one of the MANY drop-off points in Denton. They are listed below:

  • Northlakes- Windsor Dr. @ Hinkle Dr.
  • Shady Oaks- Dallas Dr. @ Shady Oaks
  • Piggly Wiggly- 619 Sherman Dr.
  • Cupboard Natural Foods- Congress @ N. Elm St.
  • The Landfill- Mayhill @ Spencer Rd.

And I've seen many places that have paper recycling collection in the parking lot, especially schools.

What can I recycle you ask?

What can't you recycle? If you use your imagination you can reuse or recycle almost anything. If you have kids, they'll use almost anything for art projects. This is a great site to get ideas on how to recycle or reuse items. It's a UK site, but reuse ideas are reuse ideas. The latest is how to use that Aquanet that you no longer need now that you've moved into the 21st century.

In April, the Denton Record Chronicle published a comprehensive article listing tons of places to take those odd things not taken by the city collection. Also, go to Time to Recycle for information about your city's recycling program, they have almost fifty cities/counties listed, so you'll probably be able to find your North Texas city. If your city isn't on there, contact your city or the company that picks up your recycling for more information. That's what I did, emailed Waste Management and got a super-quick response for my request – a complete list of what they do and don't take.

Sam's Club is now giving free shipping to send in electronics. You may even get a free gift card if the item still has value. Although, if you think it might still be valuable, you might Freecycle the item – good karma.

Speaking of good karma, if you have anything that might be of value to someone else's house donate it to the Denton County ReStore! This is run by Habitat for Humanity and the proceeds go to build affordable homes in Denton County for families.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Clothesline Challenge 2008 Progress

So I joined Gift of Green's Clothesline Challenge of 2008 (a couple of days ago actually) and I thought I'd go ahead and give a progress report. We signed up for Advanced, which means we'll try to line dry 90% of our clothes. So far so good, we've done two loads of laundry and both were "line-dried", although some of them ended up drying in the house. Refer to the picture below to see why not everything can go outside.

See, we don't actually have a clothesline, yet, so we just lay everything out on the deck and patio furniture. However, Shinerman is working on a clothesline. A very fancy one with two lines and pulleys. He's very excited. I've included a picture of our progress on that project below. It should be done this weekend. I hope it happens soon because yesterday most of the littlest man's clothes ended up on the ground in the backyard.

Monday, May 19, 2008

My food headache…

And so my headache begins…sitting in an airplane waiting to take off. I hear excerpts from conversations next to me, in front of me and the slamming of overhead bins. I'm trying to concentrate on my book and Pollen's long list of all the ways I eat corn. There's a lot.

Essentially, any food that's processed and packaged has processed corn products. And you thought you only ate corn from a can? Reading Michael Pollen's The Omnivore's Dilemma has made grocery shopping even more of a chore than it already was. Even organic products are offenders. It seems as though nothing is safe from the long golden river of overproduced corn. All this depression and I'm not even halfway through the book. Did you know they are breeding corn that is engineered to produce its own pesticide? I know that many plant species have ways to defeat and ward away pests, but this just isn't the natural thing to do. Also, he talks about how it is not illegal to feed cows to cows, but part of their diet includes fat…in the form of beef tallow from the slaughterhouse they are headed to – because fat is fat (according to the slaughterhouse)! Another thing, poultry and pigs are fed leftovers from these slaughterhouses and then they're leftovers are fed to cows. In my book cows to pigs to cows = cows eating cows.

I'm not saying that corn or corn products are inherently bad, but too much of a good thing is too much. And Pollen also had an entire section about how we're stuffing our cows, poultry, and swine with corn they are not biologically capable of digesting. That's why we get e. coli in our meat supply; cows (who normally have low acidic stomachs) are now full of acid and the e. coli that lives there is used to it and doesn't die when it hits our stomachs. Just one more reason I'm going to go pastured grass-fed meat. There's a local place called Burgundy Beef Pasture, they have a wide range of selections and they deliver to your home or office. The only draw back is the 10lb minimum, but I might have someone who is willing to split it with me. That being said it still isn't cheap, so Shinerman and I have decided that we'll cut back on meat. So my first meatless recipe is cheese manicotti.

Anyone know a good way to cook sweet potatoes and beets? Not necessarily together. Neither of us are fans of the sweet potato, but it came in our co-op food share this week.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Agro-Industrial Complex worse than...

...the Military-Industrial Complex? Hard to say.

I read a report today of a recently concluded study - Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America - by Pew Charitable Trusts and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (find it here). I do admit that I didn't read the entire 124 page report, but at least a good portion. The study is essentially about the mass production of animals in Industrial Farm Animal Production (IFAP). As I said in a previous post, in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) – large scale IFAPs, hundreds of thousands of animals are kept in a building until they're fat enough to slaughter. Incidentally, if an IFAP is large enough to be a CAFO it can ditch the CAFO designation IF they state "that it does not discharge into navigable waters or directly into waters " ??! So they CAN put it into the ground where it will eventually seep into the GROUNDWATER? And if they're just under the size limit – no worries about where they put the waste? My head just blew up.

Any who… All those animals living in such close quarters pass around disease like mono at a make-out party. These animals are usually a single breed and a single genetic line, meaning if one isn't able to stave off infection it's unlikely his second cousin down in the next cage will be either. This all leads to pathogen transfer, infectious disease transfer, and food-borne infection. The industry uses massive amounts of antibiotics on the animals to treat the diseases and just to 'help them grow' in general, which leads to antimicrobial resistance. We all know that's not good.

And don't forget about those cesspools of shit. "A single hog Industrial Farm Animal Production (IFAP) facility, for example, produces manure in an amount equivalent to the sewage flow of an entire American town. Pound for pound, pigs produce four times the waste of a human. Consequently, a single IFAP housing 5,000 pigs produces the same volume of raw sewage as a town of 20,000…" all this with no sewage treatment plant. The resulting stink is actually making people who live next to these facilities sick; imagine if you had to work there.

And where does it all go? Sometimes the facility sprays the untreated sewage on their own land -at least it's not going in the water. And other times...

In a recent New York Times article about fertilizer shortages, the authors stated that U.S. farmers "have increased the age-old practice of spreading hog manure on fields". The 'age-old practice' they are referring to is from back- in-the-day when farmers used the waste from the 40 or so hogs they raised to add some nutrients back into the land – sounds gross, but a perfectly decent, sustainable practice. Those hogs were likely not sick, fairly free-roaming, and there weren't enough of them to overload the land with too much nitrogen and phosphates. That's not the situation we have today, that hog manure is coming from IFAP cesspools. Is it treated? Who's to say, these IFAPs aren't regulated very well or consistently.

I know it's depressing and I know that not everyone can afford locally produced meat from free-roaming, grass-fed animals. The report gave some very extensive suggestions that basically boil down to what the government, industry leaders, and watch-dog groups need to do. But you can contact your elected representatives, cut back a bit on your meat intake (perhaps forgo the $.98 package of Rodeo hot dogs - I know yummy yummy in your tummy), and when you can, buy responsibly raised meat.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Affordably Green

We went to the Denton Arts & Jazz Fest Saturday. Holy Moly! It was packed. With just the one bridge in Quakertown Park (aka Civic Center Park), traveling from one side to the other took waaay too long. Now I remember why we usually go on Sunday morning. We didn't even get a chance to check out the art booths, so no new pottery for me. I guess I don't really need it anyway.

We did get a chance to visit with the folks from the Denton Affordable Housing Corporation. They were there promoting Nevada Court, a community of "green" homes. I've heard of it before, the same guy who helped build the Zero Energy home in Frisco is in charge of this project. However, they had pictures and plans and PRICES! How often do you see that? Anyway, the prices are pretty decent. One of the more expensive ones was only $142,000 for almost 1400sf. And they guarantee the monthly heating/cooling bills to be less than $60 a month. It looked like there were only a few of the houses up for sale and, depending on your income level, you may be eligible for first-time home buyer assistance.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Giving away toxic products

I've dealt with this quandary many times in my journey to become more 'green'. How do you deal with the guilt of giving things to other people that you don't want your own family to touch? Over at Enviromom Heather asks the same questions. After a few days thinking the issue over, I realized that it's not going to a landfill and this will prevent that person from buying the same product new. This will decrease demand(a little bit) and maybe they'll stop producing it at all - if a whole bunch of people do this, it's possible!
Also, I keep in mind that some people just don't believe or care. Many times when I'm getting rid of something I have friends or family ask for it, knowing full well the reason I'm getting rid of it.

Keeping all this in mind makes it easier to donate those items. How do you guys deal with this issue?

Earth Day

So, what did YOU do to celebrate Earth Day? I took the day off… really. I took the littlest man to the Dallas Arboretum for Tiny Tot Tuesday. They have crafts and face painting, music and games. We had a great time. I really enjoyed spending time with him just having fun, and what better day to be out in nature than today? Although, I must say for such a green space it's not a very 'green' place. No recycling anywhere! So, we just kept our water bottles and recycled them at home. No I didn't plan enough in advance to be able to actually take our own good-for-you food – oh well, maybe next year.

On another note: How many paper towels do you use in a day? Before we made the switch to dish towels, we easily used 10. We now use ZERO and haven't bought any in a couple of months. Shinerman isn't completely on the bandwagon for this, but he doesn't do the shopping so he's kind of at my mercy whaahaahaa… I've got a friend working on some napkins so we'll start using those instead of the dish towel. That should make him feel better.

For those of you still using paper towels, here is an article you should read. It's a product test of different eco-friendly paper towels.

I'll save you the suspense…365 Everyday Value (from Whole Foods and cheaper than Bounty) and Seventh Generation Natural (you can get this almost anywhere) won the day.

So, maybe the thing you can do today is use more earth-friendly towels? Here's to you if you make that choice!!

Getto-Fabulous AND eco-friendly

Shinerman decided that, although we don't have a clothes line yet, he would dry the clothes outside today. I came home to see clothes strewn around the deck and patio furniture. He was very proud of himself. And they did dry a lot faster than I thought they would, so they weren't out there for too long – not that the neighbors would care – they're pretty ghetto-fab themselves! BTW – I think that the guy a few streets down is building a chicken coop!! I'm not that ballsy, but maybe we'll get some fresh eggs out of the deal.

Speaking of fresh eggs, when we went to get our co-op delivery Saturday, the host had fresh eggs! For FREE!! Have you ever seen a blue egg? I had not, but I can't wait to eat it…yummy! This is our second co-op delivery. It's all organic produce, you don't get to choose what you get, but it's been pretty good so far. I had cauliflower for the first time last week. It was ok, the littlest man and Shinerman both loved it. I didn't, but liked it enough to eat it again. Last time I roasted it like I do our broccoli, not sure what I'll do this time. I'm really hoping that all this produce will force me to up my veggie intake. The co-op also does dry goods, so I will try that out and let you know how that goes. We have one more delivery on our trial membership. I think we'll keep it up. I really wish I could get more local food, but all the CSAs were full and the Denton farmers market doesn't start until June. June! Ugh…

We are thinking about getting a deep freezer. We'll have to get rid of the beer fridge, though – I know I know!!! But this way we could buy a bunch of local beef and also freeze the bounty that this summer will bring so we could have it for the winter without having the eco-guilt from BPA-lined canned/fresh flown in from who-knows-where. We'll have to see.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Art and Pigs

No, these don't have too much in common, except that I've got both on my mind.

We went to the Main St. Ft. Worth Arts Festival Sunday. We had a great time; saw some really good art, ate some pretty good (although not especially good for you) food, then listened to some fun music that had the man and I dancing. I went to the festival's website to see what sort of "greenness" they were offering. They had the two items below:

  • DO recycle your cans and bottles at the Festival, and note all of our cups and eating utensils are biodegradable, and will break down after only 45 days in the landfill!
  • DO consider alternative transportation, and do your part for the environment. Ride the TRE (late night service available on Friday and Saturday all the way back to Dallas), the "T", and ride your bike and park it in our fully-staffed Bike Corral, supported by Bikes, Inc. and the Fort Worth Bicycle Association.

I didn't notice that the cups and eating utensils were especially different, but I'm sure that's the point. I did see trash cans and recycling bins all over the place and since everything was exceptionally clean, it seems they were both being used. I did not see anyone putting their cans and bottles in the trash as you do sometimes at these sorts of events. The recycling bins had lids on them and I remember reading, I don't remember where, that putting lids on the recycling bins helps people think twice about what they put in there and distinguishes that bin from the trash can. And, of course, from our location taking the train or riding bikes is out of the question, maybe someday.

As for any purchases, are you kidding!? We can't afford that. Maybe next weekend at the Denton Arts & Jazz Festival. You know we won't be missing that one.

And now the pigs…I was reading an article from Grist.org from last year – you know the internet is like a rabbit's hole. It was about these massive pig farms, or confinement farms. The pigs are kept in a building by the hundreds of thousands, just bunched in there in cages until they're big enough to slaughter. Now, I'm no PETA person and I love me some bacon…mmm…bacon…But they keep them in there and where does all the shit go? Into cesspools, either out in the open or under the buildings. The industry calls them "lagoons", but I know I don't want to be swimming around in that! Then, I guess when it runneth over; they liquefy the feces and spray it onto the fields…blechh. You know what happens to it then, it gets in our food and ground water and on and on and on it goes – so depressing. Did you know the average American eats 6 pigs in a lifetime? I don't think that's all that much, but if they're all raised like this – not a good combination.

So I was thinking about that yummy bacon I bought…oh, please say it ain't so. And it isn't!! I bought some nitrate-free bacon from Applegate Farms at Sprouts, I'm sure you can find it other places, too. That's just where I happened to be. I looked at the package and it said "Certified Humane" Humane, you say? Yes, apparently Applegate Farms pigs are allowed to engage in their natural behaviors with ample space and no hormones. Sounds humane, indeed. If you go to the Applegate Farms website, you can even look at where your food comes from and what precautions they take to make sure it is all nice and safe, and not cesspool-y. Currently they only have this info on poultry, with swine and beef to come.

Enjoy your bacon! I know I will be!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Hazardous Waste

Don't forget the Hazardous Waste Disposal tomorrow in Corinth - for Residents only...

Baby’s got a new pair a' shoes

So, another milestone for me, albeit not a necessarily green one…I bought shoes online. I haven't bought shoes online because I'm always afraid they won't fit and I'm such a procrastinator I wouldn't return them. But, I ordered some the other day, I didn't allow any time to question myself - just Did IT...

and they came today and these ARE green. Actually, they're black, made out of old tires, hemp, organic cotton, and are incredibly cute. See pic above from the Simple shoes site. I tried them on this morning and they fit! Yeah!

Now for the old shoes...more on that later...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Green checks

So, we don't use checks very often here at Green H. Most everything is done online or with the credit or debit card. But, we do have the occasional bill that has to be paid with a check. I recently had to order new checks. Usually I just go to the company my bank endorses and click, I'm done. This time I looked to see if there was any modicum of greenness – nope. So, I decided if I was going to order I'd order one of the charity themes. I made my choice and was checking out and saw they had these little sayings you could get. I liked the 'Save the Planet' one. Just before I completed my order I stopped…

How bad would it look to say 'Save the Planet' on these checks that only get used once, are not made form recycled anything, and use ink made from petroleum?! I just couldn't do it.

So I did some looking around and found Check Gallery. They use 20% post-consumer fiber "with biodegradable, vegetable-based inks, free of toxic solvents and residues." Not only that, but it was way cheaper (more than 50%) than the other company. So, I went with them, got a really cute Please Recycle logo, and no guilt.

All in a day's work!

BPA leaking from plastic

According to an article from the New York Times today, Canada is looking into labeling bisphenol-a (BPA) toxic. This is the ingredient in many of our water bottles and food containers. I've heard of this before and since I wasn't using the man's bottles anymore anyway, decided to get rid of them. But it's baby-having season around here and time to give gifts. I usually just buy off the registry, you know so they get what they want, but this time I went out on a limb and found some really cute bottles from Green to Grow . I don't know if they could be any cuter. I went with a gift set that included an organic cotton canvas tote bag. The tote bag almost didn't make it to the new mom – I wanted it!

Shinerman and I have been on a general 'remove the unnecessary plastic' path. Using glass cups, instead of the free plastic ones (although it doesn't look like those are too worrisome) you get when you go out to eat. Then, as the plastic cups wear out, we recycle them. I do keep the little containers from the sour cream and things like that, though. You've got to reuse what you can.

That's not the only place to worry about, don't forget your canned food. Yep, those cans are lined with BPA. We eat a lot of beans and I am not looking forward to having to cook those from scratch – I have a fulltime job, people! Anyway, here is a good source to get some questions answered.

For specific information on baby products, visit Z Recommends. They are a wonderful source and they'll even send a text to your mobile phone with a recommendation on a specific company. Z Recommends: The Z Report on BPA In Children's Feeding Products, Third Edition

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Electricity comes from windmills, mommy

That's what the littlest man said tonight after bath when we turned out the bathroom light. It made me so proud; it also made feel a tad guilty. Because ours doesn't. It's my own fault, every time we see a windmill – even the decorative ones – I talk about how you can use windmills to create electricity. He's only two, almost three, so he doesn't know that we don't have green power. But, I do and so I've got to move that one up on the To Do list here at the Green H household.

We went to the Live Green Expo in Plano this weekend – it was PACKED. It was a windy day so there were tons of kids (let's be honest – they were really just Dads) flying kites. They had a bunch of cars you could test drive; including the Mercedes SMART car – not for me, but I think we have my mother-in-law convinced (her major worry was the lack of air conditioning – please, it's a Mercedes!). I, however, am still in love with the Prius, but Shinerman was looking at the Saturn – so, we'll see.

We also met an amazing woman, Sara, and her daughter Bella (we didn't get to meet her husband, Matt). They are touring the US in an RV powered by veggie oil. She welcomed the littlest man and me on board with open arms; they've done a great job fixing it up using sustainable materials, sunflower countertops people!! She's all about less materialism and loving what you have. Please visit the website and if you're in San Antonio, that's where they'll be this weekend. http://www.livelightlytour.com/2008/04/07/texas-eventsdemos/

I didn't make it to any of the presentations, but I'll be talking about some of the things I did see in the next post.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Live Green Expo

April is filled to the brim with great eco-friendly activities, Earth Day is coming up. Our calendar is already full at the Green H household, and I'm sure yours is as well. (Did everyone have a secret meeting and decide March and April was the best time to have a kid?) Anyway, we will be making time to go to the Live Green Expo in Plano tomorrow. I heard about it in a 'commercial' on NPR and raced home to look it up online – here's your link so you don't have to: http://www.plano.gov/Departments/Environmental+Services/livegreenexpo/.

You wouldn't think it, at least those who don't live in Plano (me included) wouldn't, but they have some pretty progressive views for the area. They even have a Household Chemical Reuse Center, just for Plano residents. Mmmhmm, that's right – who'd a thought? Go Plano!

The Expo looks crazy neat; they have a bunch of presentations, music, a kid's area and even an Eco-Fashion Show. Anyway, we'll be there after music class and hope you can make it, too! If not, I'll let you know how it went and what I learned.

Other upcoming events for your planning pleasure:

Garland Goes Green

Household Hazardous Waste Disposal Day

Spring Cleaning, 2008

Why I’m here

I've decided to start a blog to track my steps on the path to a greener life; this includes the family as well. I've already made many steps, but I'd like to be able to talk about them without people giving me a funny look (yes, you the guy at the sandwich shop who didn't know what to do with the reusable bag I gave you upon checkout…put my sandwiches and chips in there, please! Thank you). My focus will be mainly on things going on in my neck of the woods (North Texas), but of course we have to think globally, so I know we'll be talking about the rest of the world.

Thanks and I hope you're enjoying your path as much as we are!