Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday Links

I've been happily avoiding the internet more frequently this past week, and I hope to continue with my pattern of looking online less. However, I do have a few links and articles that I came across this past week to share, but first: a quick trash check in.

It's been a solid month since we last took out the trash. Our trash can is pretty full, but I think we can still put more in it. We are still weeding out old packaged goods in the house but we also have some outside trash that ends up in there - wrappers from another source that might come home with my kids and trash that we find when we are out taking walks (this is frustrating, but we can't leave it there obviously). Anyhow, we will be having company this weekend and I'm hoping to make it until the weekend passes to take out the trash, but it might not be a reasonable goal. While people have good intention to not bring disposable products into our home, it still happens... and that's ok (mostly).

Anyway, I am short on time and need to hang the clothes on the line before I go to work, so let me start by sharing this article about how much is saved by using a clothes line instead of a dryer. It's from a few years ago, but the info is still relevant.

This is interesting about reducing heating and cooling bills.

Here is an article about fuel efficiency and flying - they tell you who are the most efficient airlines and who are the least.

This is a very weird story about a girl who is advocating for bottled water. I'm a little unsure what to think about it.

And lastly, while this is also a few years old, if you haven't seen the raft made out of trash yet, check this out.

That's all I've got for the moment, but more is coming soon because I've got lots to share in my back catalog of thinking.

And now, turn your computer off and go outside... that's where I'm going!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Homemade pads

This is what I made tonight:
Some pads. (And just in time!)

I made 6 total and it took me about 2 - 2.5 hours... which I don't think is too bad really. I've never made them before and I certainly didn't focus on making them perfect, but they came out great. I found an old cotton towel to cut up for the inside, so there is a slightly thicker section down the middle. I found old scraps of cloth for the pads, and some (really) old snaps  in the sewing box that I inherited from a relative as some point. So these pads were free and will keep me from needing any disposable pads or liners!

The snaps are super handy because it keeps things secure.

And for me, this is the best way to clean cloth pads: Rinse out used cloth pads in cold water when you are done with them, then throw in your washing machine with the next load. Pretty easy!

I did not follow a pattern for these pads, but if you are interested in how I made them, just ask.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday Links (on Friday)

Wow, where did this week go?
I'm a day late with posting the links that have caught my eye this week, but yesterday I was just feeling straight up lazy (which is only partially true because I did take a hike in the rain). Anyhow, instead of posting before I went to work, I decided to kick back and watch Big Ideas for a Small Planet, which I highly recommend. It's very kid friendly and inspiring to know that there are people out there doing some good stuff! (Thank goodness...)

Anyhow, I did spend a bit of time on my laptop, but it was researching rechargeable batteries. I found this website, which seemed like a pretty decent site offering some good stuff. I emailed them and they wrote back right away, offering great customer service and answering my questions. I can't believe that I have never considered getting rechargeable batteries before. Well, actually, I have considered it, but then I always think back to the rechargeable batteries that we had when I was a kid (yes, I'm talking 20 years ago) and I remember how much they just didn't work. But I realize that someone must have come up with a better quality product since then, and we need some new batteries around the house... and since I certainly don't want to buy disposable batteries anymore, now is the time to get us set up with some rechargeable batteries in the house.
I will keep you posted about this once I get some money to make a purchase...

And now, some links for you:

Check out these amazing sculptures made from recycled plastic bottles.

In San Francisco, volunteers picked through their trash to determine where most of their trash is coming from - check out this article, it's pretty interesting.

I am interested in how the series Trash Inc. will turn out. I will definitely try to find a source to watch it and see what a major television network is offering us as an environmental awareness series.

Oh, and I'm super excited to buy this environmentally friendly biodiesel alternative to my tiki torch fuel! (Once again, as soon as I can afford to buy it...)

Here is an article with some important info about buying food from Asia, and how we should be much more careful about it... or just avoid it altogether and stick with local. Just a thought.

And lastly, check out Ban the Bottle, a website dedicated to... you guessed it, banning plastic water bottles. The site has some good facts that we need to remember, like:

"In 2007, Americans consumed over 50 billion single serve bottles of water; between 30 and 40 million single serve bottles went into landfills each year."

And "It takes 17 million barrels of oil per year to make all the plastic water bottles used in the U.S. alone. That's enough oil to fuel 1.3 million cars for a year."

And let's not forget "The recommended eight glasses of water a day, at U.S. tap rates equals about $.49 per year; that same amount of bottled water is about $1,400." 

That's all I've got for you today, I hope you can find something interesting or helpful from at least one of these links...

Monday, June 20, 2011


I've been waiting for weeks to go strawberry picking. Every time I actually get a day off, I would go to the Thompson Finch Farm website to check on picking conditions. Either the field had just been picked cleaned in the days before and there was almost nothing left, or a ridiculous storm would happen and we couldn't go.

Anyway, we finally went strawberry picking today.
And we got a lot of strawberries.

I'm super glad that I took my older two kids, because quite frankly, my youngest was no help at all.
He was cranky after a long day at camp and didn't feel like picking anything - all he wanted to do was eat the strawberries that we had already picked. This is anti-productive and I kept telling him to pick and eat whatever he wanted and we would do all of the work. But it was hot and we were all tired.

In fact, while my youngest was at camp, my older two kids took a nice hike with me today. Here we are at the top of Monument Mountain, playing tourists in our own backyard by taking photos of ourselves:
Anyhow, we hiked and then picked the little one up from camp and then went strawberry picking in a big hot field... so needless to say, we were hot and tired and at least a little bit cranky.
But the bigger kids pulled through and helped me pick about 20lbs of some darn good organic strawberries.
So, besides eating a silly amount of strawberries all day and night, what else do we do with these beauties?

Well, I started with the freezing process. I prepped the berries and spread them out on some baking sheets and put them int he freezer.
Yes, I know... I still have all of these freakin plastic bags in my freezer, but I'm working on it over time. For now, just ignore them like I do. Thanks.
Anyhow, if you freeze the berries like this, then when you put them in whatever container or bag you might use, they won't freeze in clumps... pretty cool, huh. I will put a bunch in my fabulous new stainless steel containers, but there might end up being a few in some recycled plastic freezer bags... this year anyway. We'll see what needs to happen when we get there.

And what else could I do with all of these berries? Well, I decided that a delicious alcoholic blended strawberry drink was in order, so I loaded a bunch of fresh strawberries and some lemonade and fresh limes with vodka into my blender... just as it decided to die on me. Straight up stinky smoke and all. Ok, let's ignore this too, because I love my glass blender and frankly don't have any money to replace it right now... so it's best to pretend that this just didn't happen and move on.

But what to do with the concoction? Well, I thought that maybe a short infusion might be nice, then we could just strain it. So, I mashed up the berries and added lots of ice.
And it got me thinking about maybe making a nice strawberry infused vodka, which is next on the list.

Meanwhile, I will be making a lot of strawberry things for a while... because while strawberries are working on freezing up in the freezer, there are still a lot of berries in the fridge down below.
And if you are wondering what 20 pounds of organic strawberries looks like - it was two of those buckets, full but not over the top like this one in the fridge.

Ok, you have been kind enough to read this forever long post about my semi-productive day that included a silly amount of strawberries - and maybe you have some good recipes or ideas to share with me? I would love it, please leave a comment so that others can benefit as well!

Potato chips

Someone asked me yesterday what I've been doing about snacks for my family - someone who knows what it's like to be busy and have growing kids that eat a lot and the need to send them off with easy snacks... or pull something out of the cabinet quickly to remedy a melt down moment for a group of kids. I explained that we eat a lot of popcorn (like, a lot)... and that in a pinch, I have bought a few bags of chips over the past 6 weeks. It's true! 3 bags of potato chips that I was so super conscious of at the register and when I threw the empty bags in my trash can.

So I decided that it's time to start making these things on my own. If these freakin companies of all natural snacks won't consider having more environmentally friendly packaging (I've contacted a lot of them and the only one doing anything good is Boulder chips, but we can't get the chips in their compostable bag around here) - then I'm going to have to at least try to make some of these snacks on my own. And if I can't make them... well then, maybe we shouldn't be eating them. Think about it, before all of this convenience food - what did people eat? They ate whatever they could make or barter for. And maybe some of them were even healthier because of it.

Ok, so tonight I tried out making potato chips. It went just ok... but I have some trail and error under my belt now for future attempts. Oh, and I have some potato chips to put in my youngest child's lunch for camp tomorrow.

The down side:
1. It took me 1.5 hrs to make them.
2. Some of them didn't get quite crispy enough and I wasn't patient enough to fry them again.
3. At the very end, because I was being impatient, I splattered a little hot oil on my arm and it currently hurts me.

The up side:
1. This will be so much easier next time.
2. If I get my kids to help next time, I will have a better grasp on what to do and they will understand how special these convenience snacks are and appreciate them more.
3. They taste good.

So how did I do it?

I started with some basic organic yukon gold potatoes and sliced them up as thin as I could, I think I cut up 4 or 5.
I soaked the potato slices in cold water for about 30 minutes to help remove some of the starch.
Then I dried them by laying them on a cloth and blotting them with a cloth napkin from above.

Meanwhile, I heated up oil in a pot. I used a cast iron pot that was deep to help avoid splattering of hot oil - this is a good idea and I recommend it. Next time I will probably try and use a wider pot, mine was kind of small.

After my first few batches, I realized that the oil wasn't hot enough. I don't have a temperature taker that I could use for hot oil, but if I did, I would have wanted it to be about 350 degrees. (Hey, where on the keyboard do I find the little "degrees" circle that goes after the temperature??) The ones made in the oil that wasn't hot enough looked like this:
They look pretty good, right? I kept thinking they would crisp up as they dried, but they didn't. I ended up re-frying them. When I would take each batch out of the oil (once the oil was up to temp, it was about 3-4 minutes), I would sprinkle salt on the chips - course salt that you grind yourself works best for this, but you could add other seasoning here as well, including pepper.

Well, I finally finished after all of my trail and error and I ended up with a nice bowl of almost all crispy (ish) potato chips.
I put the crispiest ones in one of my new stainless steel airtight containers to keep them fresh - I will let you know how they keep (why I think they would last beyond tomorrow, I don't know but if they do, I will let you know).

While this is one way to have snacks around without the packaging, it certainly is not convenient. Like, at all. But maybe what we all need is a little reminder that good, fresh food is worth it sometimes. Think about where your food comes from and where the packaging goes when you are done with it... and if you can't let go of that convenience food, that's ok. All I'm asking is for you to be conscious of what you are spending your time and money on.

Ok, now I'm off to put something on my burn...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sustain Ability Committee

Today, at the Berkshire Co-op Market Solstice Celebration, the environmental committee that a few of us have started had a table set up. It's been a great start for all of us involved - we have been working toward getting the co-op to be as environmentally conscious as we can be by doing small things to start - things like following up with our waste removal company to communicate about what they do with our waste and whether or not we are doing things right on our end (sorting, etc.)... We are also working towards better education for staff as well as customers and eventually our community. We have started the process of better recycling containers, etc... but we still have a ways to go (one step at a time).

Anyhow, those of us on the committee are super busy and doing our best to find time to do the leg work to make the change needed. Our table today was simple, but really set up to let people know that we, the Sustain Ability Committee, exist... and to give a few suggestions and thoughts about being more environmentally conscious.

One of the things on our table was a display of things that we suggested that people could have on hand to avoid having to buy things in packaging:
This is what you see in our display (all sold at our co-op!):
- Our co-op's logo klean kanteen double walled, 16oz. stainless steel water bottle (best used for coffe, in my opinion... but some think that it keeps beer cold just as well).
Snack taxi reusable cloth snack and sandwich bags.
- Cotton drawstring reusable cotton bags made by Mothering Mother that can be used for bulk or produce.
- ToGoWare bamboo utensils that are perfect for on the go eating so that you don't have to grab plastic utensils.
- Berkshire Co-op Market logo bags: our $2 canvas bags as well as the chico bag that has our logo on it.
- Stainless steel food containers - I can't find the link for the one in the picture but here is a link to some other containers that we had on the table that we also sell at the store.
- Lastly, there were glass jars in the display that are simply just containers that I carry with me when I'm going to shop for food - all of them were originally glass jars that food came in that I saved and cleaned out to reuse.

The other thing that we had at our table were lists about the 4 "r"s...
 And lastly, RECYCLE:
Sorry about the glares on the photos... but it's important to note that our last board was "recycle" and we really aren't emphasizing it. In fact, we want to encourage people to recycle as a last resort! Yes, recycling is better then throwing things in the trash, but what if you could avoid getting to that phase all together?

Our committee is still in the beginning stages and open to ideas and suggestions - so please give us ideas! We want to make a difference both at the store and in our community...

Look forward to reading more about what we are doing!

Friday, June 17, 2011


Here's the deal:
We need new ice cube trays. We like ice, especially in the summer. We have an ice cube maker but we don't use it because we don't want to take the time to figure out how to hook up the water line to make it work. That's the real reason but for some reason I feel like ice cube trays are more environmental friendly... I haven't looked into the facts behind this one but maybe if there is a water line involved then potentially more water and certainly more energy would be used... no?

Anyway, we have been using plastic ice cube trays because that's what we have, but they are breaking. I wanted so badly to buy some of these stainless steel ice cube trays when I bought those awesome popsicle makers, but money is tight as always and we had to pick and choose. We picked the popsicle makers, obviously... but then today I came across these:

They are aluminum, but they were free. Oh the dilemma!

A friend just bought this old church that had a ton of kitchen stuff in the basement up for grabs, and something inside me told me to look in the freezer... and sure enough, there they were. I've been going back and forth about these as well as doing lots of research, but meanwhile, I will admit that I washed them and filled them and they are in my freezer now.

I am aware of the issues with aluminum. But when I really started thinking about it, I wondered if plastic ice cube trays were better than aluminum ones. I just don't know! This video convinces me to want to buy plastic bottles over aluminum cans, but coming across free aluminum ice cube trays is different then what this video is talking about... mostly because the video speaks of what it takes to produce this stuff new. Here's the deal guys: if I were going to spend my money on brand new ice cube trays, they would be stainless steel so there would be no issues... but that is just not the case right now.

Well anyway, my youngest likes them.
So let's just see how it goes.

And if you guys have more info for me to drop them or if I come across something else in my research, I will let you know.

But for now, I'm happy to have those broken plastic ice cube trays out of my freezer... and the new ones looks much nicer.

On a side note, I find it interesting that people that I know who would never use aluminum cookware or kitchen items (I won't cook in aluminum myself either), would still not think twice about drinking out of an aluminum can... something to think about.

Thoughtful Thursday Links

It's been a busy week but I have not stopped thinking.

We have had some recent bumps in the road but we have also had some good successes. There have been some things that I have had to just let go of and accept as a temporary situation, but I feel pretty good about it getting easier down the line... easier for others to understand how we live as well as more routine for us, with more solutions to some of the bumps we hit.

Last week I got asked by another parent to help out with a class party. I missed the meeting where everyone signed up for different jobs and shifts because I was stuck at work and couldn't find coverage, but I wanted to help out somewhere in the mix of class play, last day of school grilling for fund raising and a cast party for the class. Anyhow, the night before the party, I got and email requesting that I help by going out and buying a case of seltzer, which was, I was told, just 12 plastic bottle that come wrapped in plastic. Well... you can imagine my issues here. I contemplated finding a seltzer maker and making it, but with such short notice there was no way to make that happen and besides - where would I find bottles to fill (ideally glass)? After much moral dilemma, I asked another parent to help out by buying the seltzer for me. I offered to take a shift he was working but he agreed without wanting much in return. I did, however, give his son a ride that night... so I sort of helped him in return. I guess.

We also had our first gathering where we asked people to not bring or leave any trash. We asked them to bring their own plates and utensils and cups for eating. It went pretty well! Our dilemma here was the packs of hot dogs that were given to me to grill that came in disposable packaging. We now have 3 packages from hot dogs (good organic ones!) added to our trash... but that was mostly it. One piece of watermelon was brought with some plastic wrap on it, so that is in our trash as well, but it doesn't seem to stand out to me as much as those stinking hot dog wrappers. My next challenge to myself is to try and find a way to get grillable meat without packaging.

And then today my kids had dentist appointments. In the waiting room I looked over at my oldest son and he was standing, staring at me in horror - he had accidentally grabbed a plastic cup and filled it at the water cooler in the corner of the room even though our water bottle was sitting on the chair next to him. He said "mom, I'm so sorry... I wasn't thinking". I have to admit, I was surprised that after a month and a half of working on awareness, he would take a disposable cup like that. But I handled it well I think - I pointed out the water bottle right next to him and then I told him that it was ok, but he had to make sure that he took it home and added it to our recycling. He agreed that was a good idea, especially because there was only a trashcan in the room.
After that we had the free give aways in the little plastic bag issue - I immediately returned the bag that my daughter accepted but I asked her if she would truly use everything in it (toothbrush, name brand toothpaste and floss in a plastic holder). She said that she would so I let her take it (one step at a time). And then I spoke with the dentist and he had some interest in why we didn't want the bag so I started telling him about what we are doing. He wants me to send him some info about more conscious recycling, which I thought was a good sign... we will see how that goes. But when my oldest was done, he took the toothbrush and floss, but left the toothpaste because he knew that realistically, he would never use it. This is a start... but ultimately, I want to be able to refuse all of this stuff and teach my kids to refuse it as well. Someday.

I know, I know... I'm supposed to be posting links, but there are so many things everyday that require a lot of thinking. I am trying to think about everything so there is potential content everyday, but I'm also trying not to be overbearing here.

But I will share some links of things that I've been checking out this week:

Here is the newest list of the most important fruits and veggies to eat organic... even though I am a strong believer in eating everything organic whenever it's possible.

Oh and, you can read about how formaldehyde has been added to the list of known carcinogens.

Watch this clip from a show that I discovered, the first episode that we watched was about music and recording studios and gear and how to reduce the energy used (very close to my heart this one is).

And this article is worth checking out about keeping cool without using so much energy.

Ok, that's all I've got.
It was Thursday when I started this post, I swear...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Trash check in

So it's been almost 2 weeks since we took out our trash last so I thought I'd check and see how we are doing:
Not too bad. As you can see, the biggest piece of trash is that stinkin corn chip bag (the one that I thought was recyclable paper throughout, but ended up having a plastic liner). There are also two other bags from snacks that we still had lying around, as well as a non-biodegrable sponge that we just finished up with before switching over to biodegradable ones, and some random stickers from veggies and whatnot.

At this rate it looks like I have a few weeks to figure out what to do with the trash bag once it is full now that we no longer get trash pick up, but I'm not really worried...


Totally on the side, I wanted to report about a local restaurant that has taken steps to reduce waste. We enjoy going to this cool little family run restaurant that has slowly been making good changes. When they first opened, they offered paper plates with some of their food, but soon after they transitioned to using cool tin plates (I think they are tin anyway). However, the last time that we ate there, I ordered a salad that automatically had the dressing on the side. I was a bit bummed because the dressing came in a little disposable cup... so I wrote a note to them about it and suggested that they consider using reusable containers for stuff like that. I know that they are environmentally conscious, so I felt comfortable doing this.They wrote back a very nice note thanking me for the suggestion and for making them a little more aware... And then today one of their family/staff told me that they have since switched to reusable salad dressing containers and are thinking about doing more. That's such good news!

So, if you have a favorite place to go to and you find that there are some practices that don't make you totally happy, tell them! You never know... maybe you might influence some positive chance. The worst thing that could happen is nothing - so it's certainly worth a shot. And if you are really not happy about what they are doing and they have no desire to think about change, stop going there!
Remember: vote with your dollar!

Friday, June 10, 2011

On the go

So what happens when you are out and hungry and just want to grab something to eat? I try to avoid this happening by always having a little something with me but yesterday was my partner's birthday and we decided spur of the moment to go to the bagel shop. I know, I know tons of gluten there, but remember that we are mostly doing gluten free to support our youngest and it just so happens that he had just been dropped off at camp.

But when I thought about it, I remembered that when they serve the bagels it comes either wrapped in paper or on a paper plate. Well, we could just ask for them to hand it to us directly (which is an option by the way), but then I remembered that after our take out catastrophe, I carry this handy little to go container in the back of my car:

It stacks and I didn't think that 2 bagels would fit if it was all put together (but I figured out later that they would fit perfectly), so we took it apart and went in the shop with these 2 stainless steel containers.

I want's sure what to expect but I approached the counter and started by telling the guy that we wanted to order bagels but avoid any wrappers or plates. I asked him if he could make us bagels and put them in our containers. He shrugged like people ask him stuff like this everyday and said sure. Now, I'm not sure if it's because of where we live and the fact that people are becoming more conscious in general (I think anyway... I'm often proven wrong here) or if it was because he was from the city where anything goes. Either way, the transaction was simple and easy and we walked out of there with 2 really yummy gluten filled bagels in our own little stainless steel containers, avoiding all waste.

I will say that there was a moment when my partner (the one whose birthday it was, the one who had run out of the house without coffee) was looking at the paper to go coffee cups longingly and wanting coffee. He looked at me and said that he really wanted coffee. I asked him if he remembered a cup when he ran out the door and he said no... I told him that it WAS his birthday and he could get some if he really needed it, but we had free organic coffee at home and we were going straight there. He decided to wait in the end (good choice honey). But then when we got home he realized that we were out of cow's milk and he didn't want soy milk in his coffee, so we got back in the car and drove down the street to pick up some raw milk from a nearby farm. We remembered our old glass milk bottle to return and grabbed a new, full glass bottle. After that, he was all set and a very happy camper. A little patience and some leg work and he had a far superior cup of coffee then he would have from the bagel shop (no offense to the bagel shop).

I did forget to mention that when we dropped my youngest off at camp, we were able to buy a dozen eggs from the school - these are eggs that the children get to collect everyday and are packed in the egg cartons that we return once we are done with them. What a nice feeling coming home from a "quick" trip to town to drop a car off at a shop, two kids off at school and one kid off at camp... and to come home with delicious local, kid collected eggs, local raw milk and a special take out treat from a local shop with no waste.

It was a satisfying morning.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday Links

I'm taking this title from somewhere, but I can't remember where. (Was it my friend Harmonic Mama?) Regardless, I give credit to where ever I took it from... I just added the "links" part.

Change Simply's Thoughtful Thursday Links is going to be a weekly post with some of the links and articles that I have been reading and researching throughout the week that I feel are worth sharing. Some will be more relevant than others, but all of them are for you to take what you need from and maybe even follow up on if need be. Tell me what you are thinking and feeling about some of this stuff! Quite frankly, I feel like there is so much info and so many ideas out there that I can't keep up the research to share.

That said, here are my (somewhat random) Thoughtful Thursday links for today, in no particular order:

This article talks about plastic waste in India and has some good points, but I urge you to read the comments as well, there are some great points there as well.

This article talks about how food is the primary source of BPA exposure for preschool aged children.

Don't get me started on this blog post, which talks about how to be environmentally conscious and take a vacation to Disney world. Yes, the excitement that my children would have there might be worth it in the moment, but I bet I could help my kids learn to find other ways to get that excited and happy about things that are more simple and have a much smaller carbon footprint. Oh, and costs less and doesn't give my hard earned cash to a big corporation.

This article may seem a bit off topic at first, but once you start to understand how important every decision that we make is, especially for our children and the way they learn, you will understand why I put it in here. It is about why and how learning to read is taught in Waldorf schools the way it is. You certainly don't have to agree with this one, but I do and this is one of the things that I read about this week and wanted to share. You might find some of your questions answered or you might totally disagree, regardless, it's worth a read if you've got time.
And just a side comment - one of the things that helps me feel as though my family is being supported in our lifestyle is being apart of the Waldorf community. There is so much connection and appreciation of nature that it makes it much easier for us (and others who are thinking similarly). Also, the simple fact that respect and consciousness is a part of the education makes all the difference.

And lastly, if you don't have the time to read any of these articles, at least take a moment to watch this trailer for a documentary called Dive that is about how much food ends up being thrown away every day. I have not seen this film yet, but it is certainly being added to my growing list of things to watch.

Look forward to more random links next Thursday!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Picnics and popsicles

I feel like I have this new disease called blogging syndrome.
It must exist.
If it doesn't then I'm inventing right it now.
The more I think about what I am doing - that is, the more conscious I become - I just have so many thoughts and so much research to do everyday that there isn't enough time to do it all. If a few days go by and I haven't posted, I start to feel idle (really, I'm not kidding). I just counted the open tabs across the top of my firefox browser and there are 12 articles waiting for me to read and follow up on and, if they are worthy, pass on to you guys. And one of those tabs is a slowly evolving post about some serious environmental stuff that is often too heavy for me to deal with at the end of a long day.

But enough about that, let's talk about more relaxing things... things like picnics and popsicles.

It's been hot here. Suddenly. The winter in the Berkshires often turns quickly into summer before we have a chance to process that it is even spring time. It's been hot and I've been exhausted from working and the kids schedule has been overwhelming to say the least... so all I want to do is go to the lake and swim and picnic for dinner.

It used to be easier then it is now, but I'm up to this particular challenge (as you know). Oh it would be so easy to just go get some grab and go food from the co-op or get take out (especially a pizza)... but we don't want the package waste and the littlest guy is gluten free. So I get creative and I cook cook cook so that we can pack it all up and take it in our containers and go have a picnic. The biggest issues with this is having enough food for my growing family - especially the 13 year old boy that is due for a growth spurt any second now and often goes for 3rd and sometimes 4th helpings at dinner.

So yesterday we did it:
Here is the little guy and my partner waiting patiently (actually, not really) for my older two kids to get out of the water and come eat. We had 2 kinds of mac and cheese (one gluten free, one not), tuna salad (with fresh tomatoes and and avocados... mmmm), sliced cucumbers and some corn chips. These corn chips make me a bit mad, actually, because they come in a paper bag, but it took me buying them and opening the bag to discover the secret plastic lining that made it not actually recyclable at all. Grrrr. Anyway, my family was happy to have a snacky food that wasn't popcorn for a moment.
Oh yeah, and we had watermelon. Because what's a picnic without watermelon?

Check out my newest favorite airtight stainless steel containers that I just picked up from green home (they are on the table).

And then of course there are these beauties, which I got from the same place:

My new stainless steel popsicle makers! I love them all and I am very happy with the company as well. I was a bit nervous about my first online order since attempting to reduce waste, but all of their stuff came packed simply and any plastic bags involved where very clearly marked as being recyclable. No trash with this order! They were all pricey but super worth it.

One thing I am constantly re-learning is that quality is far superior to quantity in most aspects of my life.

I will let you know how the posicles turn out once we have one... which will probably be tomorrow. I always feel like a piece of the test is how easily you can get them out of the molds...

And we will of course have many more picnicking opportunities this summer but if anyone has any good zero waste tips for picnic time, please share!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Thinking about toxic chemicals in the home

I just came across this movie called "Chemerical" - check it out, you can watch most of it right on the website. It's about a family that is challenged to remove all of the toxic chemicals (cleaners, body products, etc) from their home and replace them with all natural ones. The cool thing that I really liked about this flick was that the family got into making a lot of their own stuff. This totally appeals to me right now as I am trying to avoid packaging in general, but especially plastic packaging - which is what most cleaners and body products come in.

If you go to this link, they have some recipes available to download that are taken from their cookbook of chemical free recipes - also available through their website. There is also a youtube channel with some fun little tips to check out.

Do you make any homemade cleaning or body products? If so, let me know - I am looking to make toothpaste next (since that looks like the next thing that we will need)... I will let you guys know how it goes!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

More on coffee

I know, you guys are wondering what else I might expect of you now when it comes to coffee. Buy in bulk, grind it at home, brew your own, take your own cup... so much work. But oh the savings!

But this is a story where I accidentally discovered even more cool ways to save on coffee and get even more satisfaction - can you stand it??

So, I was at the co-op staring at the bulk coffee section. I usually just buy whatever is on sale, but I realized that because of this, I never really know what my favorite kind of coffee is (dark, light, hint of chocolate, etc). I was feeling adventurous and generous so I decided on something totally different, something totally not on sale: hazelnut coffee. Now, if you know me, you know that I actually can't stand hazelnut coffee. The beans smell oh so nice, but the coffee - blah. But hazelnut happens to be my partner's favorite coffee so I thought I'd give it a shot again... it's been so long, maybe I might like it now.

What? Why would I like it now? What could I possibly think changed about me or the coffee? Regardless, I bought a bunch (actually, too much by accident) and brewed up the first pot. I poured it, let it sit for 500 hours (remember? my klean kanteen coffee cup works so well that I have to take the lid off and let it cool forever before I can drink it) and then I took a sip.


You guessed it, I still do not like hazelnut coffee.

So now we had this full pot of gross coffee that I did not want and no good coffee to drink. The solution? Well, this actually worked out better than expected: pour the coffee into a bottle and put it in the fridge so that my partner can make iced coffee from it throughout the day. I drink my coffee black so iced coffee doesn't really make me giddy, but I'm happy that he can enjoy some good organic coffee with raw organic milk and raw organic sugar instead of... whatever the alternative might be.
So I brewed a new pot of coffee for myself and put the leftover of that in the fridge as well. Now we both have the coffee that we like and we make full use of every drop in the pot. Before, we would brew a pot, drink most of it and ignore the rest (usually not much, but still). In the end, we would end up dumping leftover coffee down the drain in the morning when we would make a new pot. Now we brew the yucky hazelnut coffee one day, put the left over in the fridge for the next day, and make the regular coffee the next day, doing the same. I get a fresh pot of coffee every other day, and on the off days it's super easy to heat up the fridge coffee - just pour in a pot and heat up on the stove top. It actually ends up taking less time then waiting for a pot to brew. And for my partner who loves iced coffee, the cold hazelnut stuff is perfect for him. Also, every few days we don't have to brew anything because we both have left over coffee, so we can save the beans for another day.

This is what we call compromise... and in this case we both end up winning.

It really is the simple things sometimes.

Special Deal

Check it out: Jerry from Let's Go Green is kind enough to offer my readers a 25% discount off of your next order - thanks Jerry! Just use the coupon code "FRIEND" at checkout and the discount will be applied. This is the company that I linked the biodegradable trash bags too... and I want you all to know that I am learning to link very carefully. I make sure that the company is good quality and offers quality products.
To be fair, I probably won't be buying any of the disposable stuff from this website... but there is still some good, environmentally friendly stuff there (disposable and non-disposable), so check it out.

In general I always suggest to only buy what you need... but when you need something, make sure you are buying quality. And of course, shop consciously!

If you are curious at all, I am thinking about getting some light bulbs from this website to update our regular old light bulbs that we still have around the house, eating up energy. But just for fun, check out this awesome outdoor composting toilet! Think of how different this world would be if more people used products like this... and if what I'm talking about is all new to you, consider trying this green home starter kit.

Ok, onto the next blog post in my head.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Eliminating costs

I have this whole other post that I have been trying to write for days, but I just haven't been able to finish because it keeps getting interrupted by all of my other growing thoughts. Oh well, I'll get to it soon enough. Consider it something for my growing followers to look forward to (you guys rock!).

(Can someone tell me - can I put a period after the parenthesis if there is an exclamation point inside of the parenthesis?)

Meanwhile, I wanted to just report that I canceled my trash service yesterday, eliminating yet another monthly cost that we just weren't really utilizing anyway. Before our change to eliminate waste from our home, we had issues paying this bill - mostly because we wouldn't need pick up that much so I never wanted to pay. It was a bit of a struggle and the company would get mad at me and then 2 months later our trash can would be filled and I'd call them up and pay the bill and get another pick up. We were paying for pick up every other week, but we never needed it that much. I'm happy about this... however, now I couldn't even imagine filling up that trash can every 2 months. If we have one or two garbage bags a month, it could take 6 months at least to fill that thing (and I don't even want this much trash). Yesterday I asked the woman from our trash company if they could just pick up our trash  twice a year and she kind of laughed. She was not laughing at me, but the thought of there being a need for that kind of service. In the end we agreed to have one more final pick up on Tuesday and they would haul away the trash can with the trash.

And then that will be it, no more trash can.

I have to say, in a way this is so relieving... but in way I'm a tad nervous. It's not about the trash (or lack thereof) that we are currently producing - it's when I look around the house and see how much more we have to do and get rid of. When we finally get around to purging this house (meaning: when I finally get some time away from work to focus on this), where will we put all of that stuff that ends up being trash?

The woman on the phone genuinely told me that she hoped this worked out for me, but I could hear the twinge of doubt in her voice. She reassured me that we could get a one time pick up as needed down the line. This is something that we might have to do later... but for now I'm focusing on the here and now. We will purge what we can before Tuesday morning when the trash can goes bye bye and go from there.

It's really not that big of a deal when I think about it because in our town we have a transfer station. Long ago we switched to taking our recycling here every Saturday instead of having it picked up by our trash and recycling company (that we paid for).  It was that one time that I saw our carefully sorted recycling be thrown in the trash truck that did it for us. Every town in our home state of MA has some sort of recycling or transfer station that is accessible and free for it's town residents. Some of the ones around here have swap shops where you can take things that you don't want any more for others to take and you can take something that you might need if you find it. I really wish our town had this... but I can always find someone in a neighboring town to help me out if I want to get rid of stuff down the line.

Anyway, in our town you can buy tags at the town hall if you want to take your trash to the transfer station. I think it's like $2 or $3 per bag, depending on the size (more for bigger ones). Since we use small 13 gallon biodegradable trash bags, we are looking at really just spending a few dollars a month if we take our trash bags there. Quite a savings compared to paying for a trash service - ours wasn't super expensive, just $26/month, but still!

And you know what else? Without that big ugly trash can outside of our house, there will be nothing for the neighborhood bear to get into at night! Oh yeah, except our compost pile... oh well, it's still better than trash all over the yard.