Archive for the ‘how to’ Category

3 steps to a Greener Coffee

photo by Petr Kratochvil

How do you suppose, when I am on such a tight grocery budget, that I am  okay with spending about 50% more on coffee than I did 2 months ago? These  changes that I have made in my coffee drinking it totally makes up for it.

This is my 3 step coffee make over:

Change #1: Bleached paper coffee filters to a stainless steel reusable filter

Here is the $7 reusable filter I found at Wal-Mart!

Why?

I could have been purchasing non-bleached re-usable  filters  but really did not know any better, so the eco-benefits of a stainless steel re-usable filter start for me with less use/ ingestion of toxins. It’s always nice to avoid bleach altogether if I can.

I found my reusable filter at Wal-Mart for $7. I make 2 pots of coffee a day,  so not having to purchase disposable filters is saving me about $30 a year. Helps to make up for the extra cost of organic fair trade coffee.


Change #2: Any coffee on sale to organic fair trade coffee (looking for shade

This is my current favorite coffee

grown, though if it’s organic most of the shade grown benefits are there)

Why organic?

I won’t go too much into specifically what pesticides are used on coffee. Here are a few reasons I choose organic. Some of the pesticides used  are very toxic to birds, fish, bees and mammals (hello, we are mammals..). Some are banned for use in the U.S. because they are so toxic. I’m not sure on how much of these toxins make it through to my morning cup, but for a few extra $$ I can support the companies that are keeping these toxins out of the environment. For more detailed info you can check out this article on Pesticide use on coffee farms. If you love birds and want to know about the connection between shade grown coffee and the well-being of song birds you can read about why it’s important to  buy shade-grown coffee here.

Why fair trade?

I don’t always know where everything I consume comes from, so when I have an easy chance to educate myself (movie) on something like fair trade coffee, I take it. I just found out about this movie and have it on request from my library.

Check out the trailer for the movie BLACK GOLD

Change #3: Disposable take out cups to reusable take out cup

Why reuse?

While there is some debate out there as to which is more eco-friendly 1 ceramic mug or hundreds of paper cups, I prefer my ceramic cup. I will usually use my ceramic cup to avoid buying take out coffee all together if I can.  It is pretty easy (and cheap) to make an extra cup in my pot in the

Looks like a paper cup but it's ceramic

morning to take with me. I have taken my cup to certain Canadian coffee shops in the past and they still insist on mixing the coffee in a paper cup first. Why would I bother taking in my own cup and still have a paper one wasted? I get that you want it mixed properly but it still seems pretty pointless to me.

Plus I think my ceramic cup is just so cute and I don’t feel like I’m drinking the waxy inside of a disposable cup.  Not to mention it doesn’t get too hot like paper cups sometimes do. I’m not a huge take out coffee drinker but by drinking my home-made take out coffee  3 times a week in place of take-out I am saving about $300 a year. This also makes up for the higher price I pay for organic fair trade coffee.


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What is a Big Green Purse? I’ll give you one! (review and giveaway)

Win a copy of BIG GREEN PURSE by DIANE MACEACHERN, just leave a comment. ( Open October 14-28 2010)

So the basis for me starting this blog was to write about my One in a Million Challenge (recently I’ve fallen a little behind on this, updates are coming…)

The One in a Million Challenge is an idea that Diane MacEachern came up where she encourages women to shift $1000 of their existing budget to environmentally friendly products.  Since women control 0.85 cents of every dollar spent, this adds up to a lot, like  ONE BILLION DOLLARS we’re talking.  That is enough money to make any manufacturer take a second look at their product and ask “how can I make this a better environmental choice?”.

Skeptical about the importance of buying eco-friendly products?

In her book, Big Green Purse, Diane explains why it’s important to choose the greener options. Diane touches on many subjects in the book, in fact pretty much anything related to living, from beauty products to cars to food.

In her chapter “CLEAN AND GREEN: CLEANSERS SCRUBS, POLISHES AND FRESHENERS”  she points out the health hazards we are facing today . For example 6.1 million kids in the U.S. have asthma, making asthma the #3 reason kids are hospitalized. She points out pretty clear links between what you use in your house on a daily basis with these risks. She then goes on to explain how to make simple easy shifts to healthier options. She makes it pretty easy too, with a thumbs down list of things to avoid, go green cleaning tips and even a where to shop guide.

Diane also has some pretty smart thoughts like “When buying a new appliance, light or computer to remember:  it has 2 price tags- what you pay to take it home and what you pay for the energy it uses” This book is so handy because she then goes on to list the top 10 ways to save energy and money.

It’s pretty clear that I’m a fan of the book, and that it is totally required reading for every woman, no matter where she is at on the going green scale.

One thing I did miss from the book is more info on eco-travel, a follow-up book is in order perhaps?

 

GIVEAWAY!

Want your own copy of the book? Great, cause I’m giving one away! Leave a comment and your e-mail address. Also if you feel the need to tweet or facebook or like Big green purse on facebook about this contest let me know and you’ll get 2 extra entries!!  (Open to US and Canada residents, over 18 please)

Use your big green purse

Hey, if you don’t win you should still totally pick one up. I mentioned where in my Greenie Deals post.  I love having mine around for reference!  You should also check out her big green purse website which is packed with all kinds of great info! As is the big green purse facebook page.

Worth it? Why Tide is not cool

What’s so bad about laundry detergents anyway? Why bother buying a green detergent?

A few things that are  not cool about conventional detergents:

  • Companies are not legally required to disclose all ingredients, and most choose not to.
  • Synthetic Surfactants. These suds-makers biodegrade  slowly, and will stay in our water ways for a very long time. Did I mention they are made from petroleum? They  also have a very high biological toxicity, according to an English study they have been shown to increase growth of breast cancer cells and also make boy fish more like girl fish. So weird and wrong.
  • Artificial fragrances, these are bad always, again made from petroleum, toxic effects on animals are not clear yet…
  • Optical brightners,  maybe let’s work on getting our clothes brighter without being toxic to fish.

Good news:

  • Most detergents come in concentrated versions now, because really why would we want to pay money for a bottle that is 3/4 water anyway, try to buy the detergent with the least amount of packaging.
  • Plant based surfactants ( biodegradable and safe)  are being used by greener laundry options like Method.
  • Can’t beat local and cheap! Try Down East Liquid Laundry

To skip detergent every now and then try these tips

  • Soak whites in hot water with lemons for a few hours instead of bleach (discard lemons before putting them in the washing machine)
  • Use baking soda. While I use detergent with my cloth diapers, I always through in some baking soda for a little extra kick, my sister uses only baking soda.
  • Try a recipe to make home-made laundry detergent

Funny story, In the 1960s, when surfactants began to gain in popularity detergent manufacturers  battled over who had the longest lasting suds. This led to suds  appearing in streams, rivers, lakes, and 8 feet of  strangely  colored bubbles at the foot of Niagara Falls. Was this a hint that what we use in our homes goes directly back into the environment?

Check out the other Worth it? Apples to Apples and I can’t get these diapers out of my head

Oh and by the way Green Laundry detergents are WORTH IT! I like Method free and clear detergent, my favorite part is no measuring, you just squirt it in!!

Easy, fast, yummy hot chocolate

Last night I had a little chocolate breakdown.

I had  made a  decision to buy only fair trade chocolate after my Bye Bye Kit Kat post so it really sucked when I broke down last night and in addition to my fair trade Dairy milk bar,  I had a (gasp!) Reece’s Peanut Butter cup….

In my defense my husband bought it.

So to get back on the fair trade wagon I thought I would post my organic/fair trade hot chocolate recipe!

 

Fair trade Hot Chocolate!

 

This recipe makes 4  mugs of hot chocolate (put some in the fridge and heat it up later, mmmm)

You will need:

  • Equal parts boiling water and cocoa (I use Cuisine Camino organic fair trade)About 1/3 cup each.
  • About 4 cups of milk ( I use organic whole milk because I figure more fat=better hot chocolate, but that’s me…)
  • 3/4 cups of white sugar (I haven’t switched to organic yet…)
  • A bit of fair trade chocolate for shaving or grating

Mix the boiling water, cocoa,  sugar and a tiny dash of salt well in a microwave safe container. Add 4 cups of milk and slap that into the microwave for a few minutes, stirring whenever you feel like it.

When it reaches the perfect temperature take it our and mix it even more!

I grate some chocolate on top (that would be the pencil shaving looking stuff) or you could add a cinnamon stick or a tiny splash of vanilla extract.

Enjoy!

*While you’re enjoying your hot chocolate, check out this article:World of Green urges consumers to buy fair trade in celebration of  National Fair Trade Month.

What your kids need to know

 

From Calvin and Hobbes "Weirdos from another planet"

 

We all know that teaching our kids to be polite and respect other people is pretty important.

What about teaching our kids to respect the earth, how many parents make this a priority?

We are packing so much into our days that we barely have enough time for homework, let alone a new subject. I think doing 1 thing a month to show our kids that the Earth is important is a goal that we can all achieve. We really don’t want our kids to look back at us and say WTF were they thinking? It is their future that we’re messing with! Do you think they  want to be dealing with our trash or severe weather (due to climate change), that is only getting worse, in 50 years?

Here are a just a  few ideas to introduce or continue teaching your kids about climate change:

If you have a baby or a toddler:

  • Get them outside! Start to teach babies right away that there is more to the world than a TV screen. ( I write this as my baby watches baby Einstein beside me…We’ll be going outside later..)
  • Make a point to recycle in front of them, let them see that this is just a part of life. Talk to them about why it’s important to recycle.
  • Let them watch or help plant a tree or garden and  they will develop a taste for it early on

If you have pre-school or young school aged kiddies:

  • Read them books about the environment. My kids love “It’s Earth Day” by Mercer Mayer and “I can save the Earth” by Alison Inches. Be super eco-friendly look for books like these at a local used bookstore
  • Make something that will spark a conversation like this great Pizza Box Solar Oven
  • Use Tupperware (pvc, bpa free) or a cool reusable sandwich bag in their lunch and let them know that they are helping to save the planet by not using plastic bags
  • Take them to a farmers market, then have them help you prepare a meal with the things you bought. Start a clear understanding of where food comes from early.
  • Have them check out this Climate Kids website that is put on by NASA  or  the climate change kids site by the EPA.

If you have a tween:

  • Take them to a beach or park to clean up litter, have them invite some friends and buy them some yummy food afterward.
  • Have them check out EEK! Another great website.
  • To persuade them with pop culture check out Global Warming celebrities

If you have a teen:

  • Chances are they are more knowledgeable about the environment than you anyway….
  • Grab them a documentary like the 11th hour, an Inconvenient truth or Food inc.

My 6 year old has been into Calvin and Hobbes comics lately. The other night I came across a great story. Calvin  decided  he and Hobbes were going to Mars, because the Earth is too polluted. Wow, even Calvin and Hobbes (in 1990) are hip to the fact that the earth is in trouble.

 

From Calvin and Hobbes "Weirdos from another planet"

 

 

Check out Climate Mama, she is hosting the Green Mom’s carnival to get people moving on 10-10-10 and celebrate climate solutions!

Worth it? I can’t get these diapers out of my head…

As you may be aware I switched to cloth diapers a few months ago, click here to find out more about that switch. Be that as it may, my baby’s butt is often still covered in  disposable diapers by others when I can’t be around.  As an aspiring ecoholic I need to make sure  we use  the healthiest and greenest option available. The disposable diapers I had on hand were not that…

WORTH IT? – PC GREEN DIAPERS

Material & Manufacturing:

  • One thing that I like about these diapers is how open they are on their label.   These diapers are made from wood pulp that was acquired from sustainable forests.
  • They do not use chlorine bleach (good news for baby’s butt as well as the environment)
  • Although there is still a small amount of plastic in these diapers, they are working to source plant based polymers instead

Performance:

Wow! Totally surprised and impressed with these!! They are stretchy and super- absorbent. To put them to the test I changed my baby man before bed at 7pm and left it on until 9am the next morning. All was good, he was dry and so was his bed! He is also teething and having some ahh messy situations down there, these diapers are even holding their own against blow outs!

Disposal:

My waste collection service is investigating these diapers to see if they can be collected curbside as compost, for the time being they do still have to go into the waste can. I will update if anything changes.

Costs Comparison:

Cost per diaper for size 6,

  • Pampers  $0.38
  • Seventh Generation $0.45
  • PC green diaper (look for a comparable store brand) on sale for $0.21 regular $0.42

If you are looking for the cheapest option you can’t beat cloth. It pays for itself in the first few months. If your lifestyle is just not  ready for cloth I say Green diapers are WORTH IT!

Any switch we can make that helps us get off of non-renewable resources, holds up performance wise to the competition, is using less chemicals and is actively trying to improve is so WORTH IT.

Although  I can’t stop thinking about these diapers,  I do know that every baby is different so if you try a green diaper and don’t like it  keep trying until you find one that is a perfect fit for your baby. Check out Diapers.com for purchasing (they only ship to the U.S.)and to read  reviews as well.  Look out for sales when buying diapers, when the time comes stock up!

*PC Green is a local brand, if you can’t find it try Seventh Generation for a comparable product (higher price). In fact Seventh Generation is even more transparent about their diaper production.

If you use another green diaper and love it, please comment!

If you write a blog, check this out.

Greener Birthday Party (Take 1)

Paisley Handmade on Etsy!

Like I ‘ve explained before, going green for me is a trial and error process. I try something new, make mistakes and learn every day. This weekend my little princess B turned 3. This marked the first birthday party I would have to throw since making the switch to a greener life. Greener Birthday party, take 1:

I like to keep my kids parties pretty small if  I can, this cuts down on costs, waste and clean up!

I invited everyone via Facebook or phone so no trees were harmed. 🙂

Decorations:

I have a huge supply of balloons at my house, as you know I do have a tainted past as a shopaholic, so I  have a lot of  “random stuff ” as my husband calls it, around my house . Also I don’t care what anybody says, helium balloons are fun. Although I was quite discouraged about the non-eco friendly-ness of balloons, I came across a blog post that told me I can compost latex balloons! Fantastic! Mylar balloons however  are NOT compost able. Since I had pre-purchased these balloons months ago, it seemed crazy not to use them. I had my balloons  blown up at a dollarstore where the ribbon used was not eco-friendly.I suppose all I can do at this point is re-use what is already in my possession and try to prolong the life-cycle of the ribbon. For future reference, these eco friendly ribbons would have been a pretty cool choice! Throw in a few streamers that I already had, I suppose it’s eco-friendly if I’m not buying anything new…. Also for future reference (slap to head,WHY wasn’t I thinking!!) I should have invested a reusable banner, like this one that I found on Etsy . I like to try to keep most of the decorations in one area of the house for easier clean up at the end of the

Fairy tea paty corner

day… Other than that I pretty much just decorated with a few pillows and created a little tea party area. One eco friendly creation I made were fairy wings. I could have gone out and bought new wings for like $3 each, but I decided to recycle craft some instead. I followed the directions on this website and they turned out ok! (Keep in mind that my idea of a successful craft is one that doesn’t immediately fall apart or burst into flames…)

Food:

I could have done better here: Pizza, chips,  pop, cheesies. All a little questionable… Should have gone for organic chips or even Sun Chips with their compost-able bags. I did ok here: I did choose to make her birthday cake this year with an organic cake mix. The feedback on it was pretty good, although next time I’ll attempt to do an organic/ fair trade cake from scratch. .. Also I didn’t purchase any disposable plates or cups (I have a large supply of napkins, and since the cake was cupcakes no plates were really required). If you were interested in biodegradable party wear Go Green in Stages has all kinds of options.

Treat Bags:

For treat bags I bought a cheap purse and wallet as well as some fair trade chocolate, organic fruit snacks, bear paw cookies and a Tinkerbell comic book. I figured that these things have pretty good play value for little girls (gotta have our purses!) so at least it wasn’t a cheap toy that would just be disregarded or broken. I have given out toys like this in the past….I could have stepped it up by purchasing perhaps a bag made from organic cotton instead. I was thinking about giving out little potted flowers, but at the age of 3 this is maybe an idea for a later birthday. For a spring birthday seeds to plant might be a cool idea…

Gift:

This is one area that I think I did great at. I purchased an eco-friendly tea set, made from recycled plastic, dishwasher safe, and the only packaging left over was a recyclable box, no plastic. Instead of wrapping the gift I used a Dora gift box that I received years ago and keep reusing almost every birthday. A friend of mine hosted a birthday party last year where instead of gifts guests bought items to donate to the Humane Society. the birthday girl got to go deliver the items and see all the animals she was helping. I think that this is a fantastic idea!

This was not by any means a perfectly eco party, but it is a step in the right direction and that is my goal!

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