Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Some electronic waste knowledge

Well, the one good thing about being stuck at home sick is that I get to write more posts again... there is so much out there to share!

Like this video called "the Story of Electronics" that was put out by the fabulous people from the Story of Stuff Project:

If you get a chance, all of their videos are totally worth watching so please try and check them out (you can do so by going to their website).

And just in case you were wondering, this is the other thing that I have been watching while I lay on the couch all day:
This ninja warrior has also been home sick with me, but he has quite a bit more energy than I do, as you can see.

Ok, back to sleep.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thinking about Christmas trees

It's that time of year where we start seeing cars driving down the street with Christmas trees on the roof of their cars. I don't dare buy a tree this early in the game, not after that Christmas when I was pregnant with my youngest... I was so into the holiday season during my last trimester of pregnancy that year that we got a Christmas tree the week after Thanksgiving. I'm not sure why it happened, but the tree was so dead by Christmas morning that we had to be careful not to touch it because all of the needles would fall off. In fact, we took it outside the day after Christmas and gave it one solid shake and POOF it was a skeleton of a tree. So, long story short, we now wait until a few weeks before Christmas to get a tree.
Sad tree, Christmas 2006
(I can't believe I found this photo!)

Anyway, the tree brings up yet another environmental issue for us all - is it better to cut down a tree (or purchase a pre-cut tree) or to have a fake tree? Well, for me it is a no brainer - we live in New England and I can drive just 10 minutes to support a local family that makes their living off of their Christmas tree farm. But for others who don't live in a geographical location that Christmas tree type trees grow naturally, then this is a real debate.

This article from our friends over at in.gredients got me thinking about the tree topic yesterday, as I sat (and continue to sit) on the couch bored from being home sick. As stated in the article, the National Christmas Tree Association does make a decent argument for real trees. And for one more read about the topic, here is another article from Green Options to check out.

The thing about the fake trees, even if you can find a second hand one, is that it will eventually end up in a landfill. That plastic isn't going anywhere... and when I start thinking about new ones being produced, my head just hurts.

And while I do like supporting a local family by getting a real tree, I was thinking that this year we might try something different. Certainly we will miss the sweet smell of Christmas that comes with the real tree, but we certainly WON'T miss the needles all over the floor. In fact, I think that alone might have made my decision for me.

So then what? Make a tree of course! There are many different good (and not so good) ideas out there, but I think my favorite comes from the good people over at instructables:

This tree is made from branches found out in the woods, which would be a fun thing to do with the family.
Check out the full instructions here.

This one was my second favorite, if we wanted a smaller tree. We would have to purchase the wire, which doesn't appeal to me as much, but we could always support our local hardware store if needed.
For instructions on this tree, go here

And definitely worth checking out is the blog that I came across called One Hundred Christmas Trees. If you've got a few minutes, there are some very enjoyable trees there!

Lastly, I will leave you with this fun video that my mother in law sent me when she heard I was researching Christmas tree ideas:

If you are the Christmas tree type, what are your plans this year??

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Traveling detour at Thanksgiving time

Oh I have waited days to write about this and I hope that intensity of my experience hasn't faded too much in that time... because truly, the detour that we had to take on our way to visit family for Thanksgiving was a crazy experience for me.

But let me start at the beginning.

We traveled to visit family for Thanksgiving. Like usual, we left after a long day of work for me, after many long days of work in fact. Needless to say, it was dark and we were tired. I was a little bummed that my older to kids opted to stay at home with their dad to celebrate Thanksgiving with him (only bummed because they missed a chance to see family), but once we were on the road for a bit, I was certainly glad that we didn't have two more bodies in the car. Don't you want to know why?? Well, let me tell you.

If you have ever traveled on the Taconic State Parkway, then you know that there is nowhere to pull off except for a random road every now and then. Well, we were cruising through one of those no pull off areas when our dog got sick... not the throw up kind of sick either. It was so awful and we had to wait for a road to appear before we could pull over. Meanwhile, the dog was trying to get away from the mess, spreading it further in the process. It truly was a moment that I never want to repeat... but wait, there is more.

We had very little in the car for clean up except an old box of baby wipes from back when we had a kid in diapers. The wipes were just for emergencies and totally dried up, but I always thought that someday they might come in handy. I was right - it was all we had to clean with. Really gross. We let the dog out (there happened to be a stream and he got in it - serious luck!) and did our best to clean and then went on our way to quickly find a store to buy something (anything!) to finish the cleaning job. Oh the smell!

We drove and drove until we finally found a pull off with somewhere to go and wash our hands and buy cleaner. I really didn't want to buy some chemical cleaner from a gas station so we decided to look for baking soda - cheap and excellent at killing odors... which was our biggest concern at that point. We thought about going into a restaurant and asking for some baking soda, but we didn't think anyone would give us any from the string of chain restaurants around us.

And then we saw it, our only option - a w@lmart. I do not think I have ever gone in one before (if I have, I've blocked it from my memory), but I swallowed my pride and walked through the doors. Oh what an experience! That place is insane, I walked around dodging shopping carts like I was crossing a busy street. I felt invisible as I hunted for a few cloth towels and a box of baking soda. I wondered why they people shopping there weren't all super fit (to be fair, I'm sure some where very fit) since I felt like I was getting a serious work out with the amount of walking I had to do in that gigantic place. It was daunting! I also noticed that they have super sized shopping carts so that people can buy even MORE stuff - those carts are big enough to fit two kids side by side, kids that looked too big to sitting in shopping carts in the first place.

Anyway, I found what I needed in record time (if there had been a race for people to find things in a gigantic store that they had never been in, I would have totally won) and headed to the registers. The 20 items or less was considered "express" - yet another plot to buy more in my opinion. The cashier at the register that I was waiting in line for didn't look well. She was telling the women in front of me about how sick she was and the women were outraged! They started ranting about how awful they thought that the way the workers in that store were treated - meanwhile, they were unloading their shopping cart to buy things to support the business they were badmouthing! I so badly wanted to suggest to them that they take their business elsewhere if they felt that strongly, but I kept my mouth shut and waited patiently. Then the cashier said "oh no, they treat us very well here... they feed us." And she succeeded in convincing the ladies that she was actually treated well (even if she had to work with pneumonia).

Finally it was my turn to check out and the cashier was so busy talking to someone else that when she tried to grab my towels and scan them, I had to put my hand on the stuff and waited for her to actually give me attention. It startled her so much, but I smiled and looked her in the eye and said "I don't need a bag, thank you". She seemed a bit shaken that I would be so direct, but she said ok and then gave me her attention for the one minute that our transaction lasted. I gave $4 and some change of my hard earned cash to that place, grabbed my goods and split. I passed a mcd0nalds on the way out, that was weird for me too - I had no idea they put them in stores!

Ok, enough of that, here are the lessons that I learned from this long story:
- Always keep a spare cloth in your car (I have two now).
- Baking soda kicks butts in killing odors, and I might just have to keep some of that in the car too.
- I never want to go into that store again.

Luckily the rest of our trip went well, here are a few pictures that I took along the way:
 Thankful for food and family to eat it with.
Vintage toys for grandkids to play with - in this one, the playmobile man seems to have conquered a cart full of superheroes...
 Lots of recycled art at the grandparent's house, very cool.
My youngest has wanted a nutcracker SO BAD since his older sister performed in the performance with the Moscow ballet a few weeks ago... luckily he has a grandmother who had a collection in her attic!
 We took a trip to the zoo.
 The tigers got really close.
 Attic fun.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

New shoes

My son needs new shoes. Not the little one, the 14 year old one. The one that happens to currently wear the same size shoe as me. The one who, if I am lucky, will pass down some cool shoes to me when he moves into the next size. So, I have some interest in being involved with the process of buying his next shoe...

We started the new shoe hunt online, looking for eco-friendly sneakers. He is quite obviously into how the shoe looks, and at first that was all that he cared about and we were kind of butting heads... so I dropped the whole thing and forgot about it.

But then he came to me yesterday and said that he had been thinking about it and he actually did care about the quality of the shoe and that it was eco friendly. He doesn't like the idea of workers being treated unfairly to make the products that he buys, and he doesn't like seeing overflowing landfills, so we went back to the computer again.
Check out what we found.

Oat shoes were our favorite find, but they are totally out of our price range:
These shoes are biodegradable and you can apparently grow plants out of them when you are done wearing them. Pretty cool.

Well, I certainly don't want to advertise for n1ke, but they have a shoe that is made from recycled newspaper:
(I obviously didn't take these pictures, I'm sure you all realize that)
When we came across this shoe, my son said something to the effect of: I wonder how long it took the kids in the shoe factories to make those shoes. We moved on.

And then we came across other cool biodegradable footwear:
Afterheels are little compact shoes sold in vending machines in the UK. They are designed for when your feet hurt after wearing heels all night. The shoes are biodegradable and sold for pretty cheap.
A very interesting idea.

Then I found an article about how someone made a stormtrooper helmet from recycled adidas shoes.

And some vegan heels that are made from recycled tvs.

Ok, ok... I was having fun but enough about shoes that my son would never wear - this is what we found for him:
Simple shoes make some nice shoes from recycled material. I think they will be one of our new default shoes to buy when we need to buy "new". This particular shoe is made from hemp and organic cotton as well as recycled materials. The outsole is made from 40% recycled car tires and 60% natural rubber with biodegradable materials. The insole is also biodegradable, designed to break down within 20 years. And the really nice thing about them? I would say it's the elastic laces... my son currently wheres his laces super loose and not tied at all... and of course there's that little parent gene that I acquired when I had kids that ensures that this behavior drives me nuts. And then I feel old (but that's another blog post).
Oh, and I would wear these shoes... which brings us back to the beginning of this post.

Ok, I'm going to tell you all something else.

I have a little dirty secret. I love shoes. I know, I know... most women do. But I don't really like women shoes much since my wide feet don't often fit in them. But I like looking feminine sometimes so I don't always want to wear mens shoes. So shoe shopping is very difficult, especially when looking for second hand like I try to. I can't buy second hand online for shoes unless I've tried on the shoe and know it's the right fit. And I don't ever want to spend a lot of money on shoes because it makes me feel guilty. But yesterday, I did.

Every time I look for shoes for myself, I spend hours online hunting for the best shoe for the best price, never being able to try the shoe on. Once I make a decision, I'm always disappointed for some reason.

But I finally decided to treat myself to a really good pair of shoes, made by a good company and purchased from a local business. And you know what? I don't even feel guilty.

Keen shoes have always been my favorite. The company is decent and they fit my feet just right. No pointy toes, no heel, just total comfort... and this just might be the boot that I've been looking for forever. I bought them locally on a day that encouraged local buying in my town by offering 20% coupons for some of the stores... so I took advantage and saved a little money. Considering that I have never spent this much on shoes, anything helped!

Phew, I feel better now that I've told you.

I guess maybe I was feeling a tiny bit guilty...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bulk excitement

It's true, I get excited when I find new things in bulk.

This week when I did my "big shop", I think my family was just as excited as I was that my co-op now carries some new items in the bulk department.
Yes, that is cereal my friends. My kids have been deprived of cereal for 6 months now, since we started this package free adventure. And cereal is just one thing that I refused to cave on - a cardboard box is one things, but that plastic bag liner with almost no cereal inside is another thing altogether.
But now, cereal in bulk.

Also shown in this picture is a jar of honey roasted peanuts... a delicious new snack in our house. And let's not forget those all natural jelly beans...totally unnecessary but oh so good. If you like to bribe your kids with candy (which I do not by the way), bulk jelly beans would totally work.

And in the background (but difficult to see) are the counter top staples, bulk style of course: honey, pink himala salt and black pepper, both in refillable glass grinder jars.

One other thing in this picture, very difficult to see, is my wine carafe. And while I don't currently have a good source for buying local and/or bulk wine, I do have an idea in the works. Stay tuned for how that turns out...

One more thing, not bulk related but something I think is worth giving attention to.
My co-op is launching a new program that is pretty cool - local frozen veggies for sale.
While I would debate over this item for a while due to the plastic packaging that it come in, I think that this is a fantastic idea! Kudos to all involved.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

In.gredients links, Honda, shopping locally and reusable pizza boxes

Ok, here's the deal.
I have lots to share but no time to create some well written blog post to make it all come together.

So here goes... just check out these links because I promise that they are interesting enough.

I've been following what the store (to be) in.gredients has been sharing - lots of good info! I am excited for this store to open, but it is taking some time. Once open, they will be the first no package, zero waste store... too bad they will be very far away from me. But I can still support them and look to them for ideas on how a business can do this, and hopefully help encourage zero waste even more around me.

Anyway, they have been posting lots of interesting articles, and I'm just going to share my favorites:

This article is taken from the daily green called "10 ways to green your pantry".

This article is called "reducing waste: do it for your community". And by the way, I love the pictures in this article and the one before - mostly because it is what I see in my own pantry and it's what I wish other pantries looked like!

Check out this video that they posted on their blog, it makes me feel better about owning a Honda:

Ok, ok... onto something else altogether. Check out my friend's article that she wrote about five reasons to shop locally. And if any of you are near Media, PA - that's the town she speaks of. Though I will say, that is not her in the picture and she does not regularly balance presents on her head.

And for those of you who are trying to figure out what to do with your pizza box after you get take out, check this link out. Sorry to all of you out there putting that grease covered cardboard box in the recycling bin... it does require a little more thought than that. My friend has mentioned that she wishes there was a stainless steel pizza box that she could buy and take to pizza places for to go pizza... anyone out there ready to make one?? Wait, check this out:
 What do you think? I would totally buy one and use it myself...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A little more on plastic bags

I guess all this time while I was off not blogging, I was still collecting info. Recently, there has been a little more info on plastic bags that I wanted to share with you all. Mostly I wanted to share this clip that aired on CNN:
The video features the Bag Monster, who I try to follow when I can.

I also thought this was a good article for dog owners who want to rid their lives of plastic bags. What do you pick the dog poop up with? Check out the article for some good suggestions.

Gift giving

I know I've been MIA and I apologize... life has been so busy!

As some of you may know, we got hit with a freak snowstorm a few days before Halloween. It was a lot of snow.
There are actually 2 cars in this picture, believe it or not. And since both have bald tires, we were pretty much stuck at home. So much for our night out.

But the snow definitely made me start thinking about Christmas and gift giving (already!)... and I decided that it was time to brief my family on how we would be handling the holidays and general gift giving from now on. I sent my closest family an email explaining about how we are trying to only support the purchase of previously owned items and how we don't get trash pick up so we would like to avoid anything coming into the home that creates any trash. This also includes wrapping paper, which generally is not recyclable. Not only that, but second hand items are cheaper!

Yesterday was my oldest son's 14th birthday (even though I'm not really old enough to have a child that age), and I simply wrapped his gifts in newspaper:
Why not? There is tons of it all around us and it's free and recyclable. And as they say, it's what's inside that counts.

As for the gift... well, I finally caved and decided it was time for my electronic device deprived teenager to have a little fun so I got him a sony PSP. I found it used on ebay and 2 used games to go with it. He was more than thrilled and could have cared less if there are a few little scratches on it. Not only that, but I probably saved $100 or so.

Anyhow, I'm sure that I will have much to share with you as we actually get closer to the gift giving season. And since the snow is melting and we are returning to fall again, I will put this thinking on hold for now.