Saturday, January 31, 2009

Old School Fun Videos

Charmaine sent me the first two videos this morning and immediately upon watching them I was taken back to age five sitting in front of the television, watching Sesame Street. Educational television existed back then and they were not afraid to teach us kids about things that were seemingly out of our grasp. The third video is one that stuck with me through all of school; anytime I got stuck in English class this little ditty went through my head and everything was alright. Notice that without the second lesson it would be pretty difficult to pronounce the name of the third video. It would be great to see more programming like this on television again!

Only A Bill


Conjunction Junction

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Fun Eco Shops

Usually the first place I go to locate fabulous Earth friendly items is Etsy because it is easy to search and as a seller on the site I like to do the give and take. There are always some shops that stand out or items that blow me away and when I come across them I think “How cool this is an Earth friendly item!” Some of my current favorites are below. With the spring on its way, but winter still very much hanging on, some might be wishful thinking but I encourage everyone to get out to some of these shops and check out more of their awesome little goodies!

The Fairies Nest

The Hole Thing

Lucky Sustainables


Anderson Soap Company

Recycled materials, bamboo fiber, all natural materials and upcycling are all methods or mediums used to create these fine items.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People

A good friend of mine gave me a hardcover copy of this book by David Niven, Ph. D. a bunch of years ago when I was leaving a job and setting off on a brand new adventure. She is one of the most positive people I know and this gift meant so much to me that although I have given many things away over the years this book has remained planted on my shelf and referred to often. It is a quick read and so uplifting. I would like to share ten of these secrets now and strongly encourage everyone to purchase this book right away for a good dose of happiness to the soul!

☼ Cultivate friendships.

☼ If you’re not sure, guess positively.

☼ Pay attention. You may have what you want.

☼ Volunteer.

☼ Make your work a calling.

☼ Get a good night’s sleep.

☼ Keep a pen and paper handy.

☼ Don’t ignore one part of your life.

☼ Give yourself time to adapt to change.

☼ Have a purpose.

Within each of these headers are a couple of corresponding pages with suggestions for ways to complete them, stories of people who have fulfilled them or quotes from people that relate to them. It also does not hurt that scattered all throughout the book are a whole bunch of smiley faces ☺☺☺ encouraging feelings of joy.

I hope you all have a happy day!

Monday, January 26, 2009

It Is Amazing What One Sees On the Road

This morning while on the way to work I got behind a white van and normally this would not be a special occasion however this truck had the words “Sustainable Wastewater Treatment” emblazoned on the back. As we both pulled up to a light I quickly jotted down the website in my day planner and made a mental note to do some research upon returning home. The name of the company is Clivus New England, they are based out of North Andover, MA and upon reviewing their website I found that not only do they handle residential but commercial wastewater solutions as well.

Clivus offers services in the way of design, permitting and installation, as well as maintenance of both self-contained composting toilets and separate greywater systems. One of their claims on the website is that a client can eliminate nitrogen pollution as well as sewage altogether. Through their greywater system, waste water from sinks, bath tubs, dishwashers and washing machines is captured in a PVC piping system, cycled through a filtration unit and fed into a recycling system outside the home; much like a septic system but without the addition of sewage. Their composting toilet system resides in the basement of the home and all toilets can be attached to the composter through PVC piping. A non-invasive pipe allows for ventilation out through the roof of the home.

The website offers limited information on the exact specifications of each system but it is apparent that this is due in part to the company’s ability to go with the flow of each individual installation (no pun intended). There are sectional diagrams available to get a feel for how the systems work and a contact page to get in touch when the client is ready for their install. They have serviced residences in wooded areas as well as big boys like McDonalds and it appears a good number of clients in between. Although Clivus is located here in Massachusetts I would wager that companies such as this will be springing up nationwide so for those in the market of a new wastewater system, or those looking to renovate an old home with a septic system, I strongly encourage looking into this or another similar company because as we all know, every little bit helps.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

My Favorite Diva Continues to Support This Cause!

Charmaine has been instrumental in providing tips, ideas and links over the past couple months and not only had I given her huge kudos for those rockin good links but I certainly asked if she would be interested in becoming a contributor to our little Green home. She did decline as writing reviews and wordy type posts are not her style but she did say she is more than happy to still send on anything and everything she finds that could be a good story for GLR. I was overjoyed she was still interested in helping out!

To date, Charmaine has likely provided me with over fifteen potential story ideas, at least ten fantastic links and turned me on to a handful of fascinating eco blogs and her unwavering support just keeps coming! I interviewed her ages ago because not only is she a serial blogger but one heck of an environmentally conscious Interior Designer as well. Do not be shy in getting in touch with her regardless if you live in Oregon or not, she is fully able and happy to travel (and at this time of year I would bet she is going to be your new best friend if you fly her out to work in Hawaii). Below is a reprint of some of my interview with Charmaine from July of 2008. Links to her information can be found at the end of the interview.

Who or what influences your work and why?

My work changes as I change, as my interests grow, so I would have to answer: life. Fifteen years ago I was focused on antiques, which led selling, which led to decorating, which led to design. Designing has been the most rewarding to me because I’m not a follower. I get the most satisfaction from creating my own work rather than copying page 18 of a popular design catalog.

Who or what inspired you to become a Designer?

A customer from one of my antiques shows admired my sale displays and asked me to consider decorating her home. That job led to others, which eventually led to design.

Why was it so important to go green?

Global Warming is very real. This is the only planet we have and this is our chance to save it. As a designer, I believe salvation begins at home. Making your home and lifestyle as green as possible…what better way to save the planet.

How did you approach your first client with green design concepts? How long ago was that and were they receptive?

My first choices for products are always green so my approach is straight- forward. Being green is my modus operandi, and it’s what I offer my clients. As long as it fits within their budget, clients are receptive. If they balk at the price, I simply suggest the next best green product instead.

Where did your first inspiration come from?

When I was a kid, my mom had a coffee table made out of an old wooden door, complete with vintage hinges and knobs. I remember the delighted laughs when guests would see if for the first time, and inevitably knock on “the door”. It opened my eyes to the possibilities of reusing items, turning something old into something new. This philosophy is the core of my design style.

What have you incorporated into your lifestyle to facilitate going green and conserving energy?

I have always lived a green lifestyle. Lately, the biggest changes have come about due to the rising gas prices. We live in a semi-remote area, so driving long distances is a necessity. I consolidate my trips to town (30 miles each way) which makes for long days of running errands, but saves gas and money and reduces carbon dioxide emissions.

What is important to you about conservation and preserving our environment?

I think the most important thing is to influence the nay-sayers. Our planet is in crisis, people need to understand this and make the necessary changes to save it. Little things will make a difference. It’s one of the reasons I sell vintage goods and supplies. Items can be re-used in ways they were not originally intended. Jute webbing can be used in lieu of ribbon to make a simple chair tie, skeleton keys and clock parts can be turned into jewelry…the list is endless.

What are you currently working on?

My current project is personal…for the last year my husband and I have been remodeling our home. Last summer we bought a five-acre piece of property in the High Desert of Central Oregon. With our budget, buying this much land in the most expensive part of the state necessitated a low cost home...a 1980 double-wide trailer.

There was no beauty in this home. None.

This project has been my biggest design challenge to date. We gutted the entire inside…salvaging and donating items to the Habitat for Humanity resale shop, recycling wood and scrap metal as we went along. We tore out the cardboard and plastic ceilings, rewired and re-plumbed where necessary. We hired a crew to sheetrock over the nasty paneling and then I coated the walls and ceiling with both low VOC (Devine) and no VOC (Yolo) paints. We ripped out the germ riddled plush carpeting and laid Eco-Timber solid bamboo flooring (using a non-toxic glue) throughout the entire house. We tore out (and recycled) aluminum slider windows, replacing them with energy efficient ones. We repurposed antique furniture into a vanity sink cabinet and linen closets rather than buying new pieces. The kitchen cabinets were purchased from a company who offered a green line of cabinetry. Paperstone (countertops made using 100% recycled paper and a non-toxic resin) was installed in the kitchen. Ten of the light fixtures we installed were found at second hand stores or purchased off Craigslist. We salvaged, reused and repurposed many items making our remodel as green as we could afford, and as beautiful as possible.

What Green Product would you recommend to our readers?

Paperstone (Countertops made with 100% recycled paper)

What is your best going green tip?

Shopping locally. It keeps money in the local economy, which in turn creates jobs, promotes community development by creating charming, walk-able town centers which reduces urban sprawl, pollution, traffic, etc.

How would your friends describe you?

Creative, innovative and loyal.

Do you have a website or online presence that showcases your work?

Currently my online presence consists of my Etsy shops:
High Desert Diva where I sell small vintage items
High Desert Supplies where I sell vintage and new supplies for assemblage art
and my blog
I plan to have a design website within a year.**

** Charmaine does have an operational website Charmaine Manley Design.

Photographs courtesy of Donna Pizzi and Philip Clayton Thompson of
Blackstone Edge

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Walgreens Is Jumping On the Green Wave

As a simple girl I do not wear much makeup so when I do purchase the few products I use, they are generally less expensive brands. Over the years I have tested a plethora of price ranges and find that none do any better job than the next so the convenience of being able to purchase right at my neighborhood Walgreens Pharmacy is always a nice touch. Tonight I went in to pick up a couple items and took a brief walk through the store as it had been a while since I had shopped there. I was pleasantly surprised to see three instances of Earth friendly attention in my probable ten minute stop.

First, the makeup I purchase is a pressed powder made by Wet n Wild but when attempting to locate it I found it had been replaced with a new version. Upon inspection of the package I discovered the new name was Natural Wear. Intrigued I read on to discover the makeup is made from 100% natural ingredients and the package, now a heavy duty cardboard as opposed to the previous plastic, is made from recycled paper. Upon testing it at home I was pleased that it looked just as nice as what I had used in the past and it felt good on as well.

Walking around I noticed some kitchen towels on an end cap and since I always like to reach out and touch that kind of item I did so. I stopped walking right away as I read the sign indicating they were 100% bamboo fiber. As a rapidly renewing resource it is an excellent choice for creating fiber and tends to be much softer to the touch than cotton. What made me excited was to see that the towels came in a package of two and were only $5.00; just $2.00 more expensive than their much rougher cotton counterparts around the corner.

Deciding to forego purchasing the towels I headed to the cash register where on the counter I read a sign that encouraged customers to either bring their own shopping bags or just simply say “skip the plastic” and take their items without a superfluous plastic bag. I generally do this when I have a small number of items that will fit in my purse anyway but it was wonderful to have the reminder.

With over 5,500 stores nationwide and in Puerto Rico it was encouraging to see this company that was founded about 108 years ago is rolling with the times. Not only do they employ local workers in their establishments but they are keeping an eye on the planet as a whole by encouraging sound shopping practices and offering eco friendly selections to their customers. Keep it up Walgreens!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Polar Ice Shelf in Immediate Trouble

We all know that the Polar Ice Cap is a hot topic of environmental conversation due to its rapidly decreasing size due to rapid melting however just a few short hours ago this video was released on YouTube by Sky News out of the United Kingdom detailing that the west side of Antarctica is melting faster than originally thought. This news story has taken two spots on the front page of their website this morning. Certainly, as a small land mass, in comparison to the United States for example, the UK is concerned with what the melting could mean for their shores and island on the whole.

Please pay special attention to the line when the reporter mentions it could collapse in days.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Get On the Floor and Do the Inauguration Day Dance

It is finally here, the first day of the next four years, and if we are very lucky, eight. Today marks such an important moment in history for so many profound reasons. I will not go into all of them again but I ask everyone to think about them as they head off to work, errands, the back yard or even the sofa today. Beginning with our country, the entire world will be positively, mentally, revived by two o’clock in the afternoon as President Elect Barack Obama officially takes his place in history as the forty fourth President of the United States of America.

Last night a commercial came on that made me sit up and take notice. Obama was calling for all Americans to “Renew America Together” and gave a website to get more information on the subject. The website address is and is a clear call to request unbiased, unselfish help for and by fellow Americans.

The website was originally started to encourage Americans to consider completing a local act of community service on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, yesterday. As I spent more time on the site however it was clear that there were many events in my local area planned within the weeks after January 19 and I became even more curious to somehow lend my hands to even one of them to help.

There are twelve categories to choose from and events are searchable by zip code as well as up to a 100 mile radius around it. We are therefore able to locate an event anywhere we might be from our own neighborhoods to anywhere across the country. For example: Suppose I have a trip planned to Flushing, NY and will have some down time while I am there so on the website I select “Find An Event” and enter the zip code 11367. The list of already posted events comes up and I can sign up to attend the one I feel most connected to.

But what if I want to do something in my own neighborhood and there is nothing scheduled? Suppose there is a park down the street that lots of community children play at but there is a lot of trash that needs to be collected to make it a safer and cleaner place to play. Why not simply “Host An Event” and schedule the date and time you will be out there collecting trash at the park -- others can sign up to join you and the spirit of community begins to grow!

A couple weeks ago Obama indicated something to the effect of ‘we got ourselves into this mess which means we can get ourselves out’ and although at the time he was referring to the current economic status I also truly believe we can apply that manner of thinking to our disconnect from community as well. I applaud this effort to get out and meet our neighbors, lend a hand, be a humanitarian, and most importantly, regain a sense of pride in our own communities. I strongly encourage everyone to get over there and check it out and then sign up to either attend or host an event. Matt and I are planning to attend an event this Sunday and hopefully many more there after.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
- Lao-tzu

I have posted the same words over at my personal blog today as I feel this deserves a very broad reach so everyone has a chance to check it out. Please consider posting about this wonderful tool on your own blog or website as part of this call to community. Now get out there and enjoy this historic day!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Two Great Men

Today is the day in the United States when we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. A man who, despite the odds being stacked against him, stood up and voiced the hopes and desires of an entire generation of Americans for equal rights, freedom and a better life. Although he was primarily speaking for a race of people, his visions of equality are applicable to anyone shunned by the masses of society and his powerful words hold much weight in the hearts of many, myself included. His enormous spirit lives on even forty years after his assassination.

Strides in equality and freedom have been achieved for many groups in this country but tomorrow, for the first time in our nation’s history, a man will accept the title of President of the United States who truly embodies the vision of equality that MLK spoke of. President Elect Barack Obama is the visionary for an entirely new generation and as he takes his rightful seat in the White House tomorrow I will be sending out positive thoughts of peace, hope, love and equality all across the world.

Pay special attention to the woman at about 2:15 and her accurate statement. Here’s to the hope of a country truly United reaching across the entire planet.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Smiling Faces

This is really cool to watch the face come to life in front of our eyes. Hope it makes you smile as big as the face on the page.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Everyday People Making a Green Impact – Spotlight on Ginger Cooke

Yesterday Melissa discussed how all of us can take baby steps toward making a difference and cited a question posed by the moderator of the Ayer Local screening:

“What can you as an individual/your family/your community do to change things?”

In October of last year Ginger answered that call to action by single handedly leading the charge in her own place of employment to have recycling bins installed. Below is the reprint of her original interview.

It is important to note that Ginger does not work for an environmentally focused company; she is in accounting at a large automotive corporation in Colorado. She truly embodies what it means to make a difference on our planet and I hope others will take a cue from her actions and fight for the betterment of the Earth in their own offices, cities, towns and states. Take action – write letters, create proposals, pick up trash in the street – every little bit helps and that is something Ginger takes pride in working towards every day.

How long ago did you become interested in a more eco-friendly lifestyle?

I'd have to say that my interest really began to form about 3 years ago. I moved into a 1 bedroom apartment by myself and the owners didn't have a recycling program. I did a little research on recycling for apartment living and realized that Denver’s not all that up and coming in the green movement quite yet. There are virtually no apartment complexes in this area that have a recycling program for their residents and that really weighed heavily on me. Recycling is supposed to be one of the easiest ways to reduce and re-use so I decided that I would begin looking into different ways I could make a difference as one person and perhaps spread the word through example. That’s when I began blogging too. I wanted to write about environmental and energy saving tips I’d found and implemented for myself.

Do you remember the first green effort you personally completed?

It seems small, but I was so proud of myself. While in that apartment I found a free recycling dumpster placed by the Shriners next to a grocery store and I would carry all of my recyclables to the dumpster every week. I started keeping a recycling bag at work and I would do the same from there. It felt really good that I had made an effort and was doing something that was good instead of turning my head because it was inconvenient at times. It just blossomed from there.

When did you first approach the powers that be in your office to discuss setting up a recycling program?

Back in February of this year we were currently recycling paper, but that was all. We give out free bottled water and there are so many plastic bottles that get thrown away and it's pretty heartbreaking to have to tell a customer that no, there's no recycling container, sorry.

How did you approach the topic (written proposal, mounds of research, etc)?

The company I work for is really great, they have this program set up where a representative from each department gathers ideas and suggestions from their co-workers and takes them to a committee to discuss, plan and possibly implement these new ideas. That’s when I first planted my seed. I was told that if I did the research and got all of the details worked out then we could have a recycling program at work. It was pretty simple actually; I called the waste company we use, asked a few questions and found someone to provide me with all of the details. She faxed me everything I needed from programs, plans, pricing and dumpster sizes and I was on to the next step of getting the actual approval.

What was their initial response?

The approving manager seemed a little hesitant at first because we'd have to find room for another dumpster and it would add more expenses every month. I heard from a representative of the committee I mentioned above that he was going to approve it anyway; then he moved and we got a new manager. After we presented him with all of the same information he was very enthusiastic, but didn't want to spend the money so it stopped was about May by this time.

What motivated you to continue to pursue this venture even after meeting with resistance?

I never really gave it up; I just let it sit and waited for another opportunity to present itself. Then, last month my comptroller and I both noticed that our trash service was doubling in cost every other month. One month it would be about $300 and the next, $600. We’d never noticed before because frankly, we'd never really been watching our expenses so closely until money began getting so tight (there's my silver lining around the economy cloud). Our bill was doubling every other month because of the frequency we'd have to call and have it emptied. I started wondering that maybe we could curb that cost by recycling. It makes sense, right? Less waste = less roll-off dumpster service = less money.

Did you involve the help of others in the office to champion this effort?

Yes! I absolutely couldn't have done this by myself. A couple of days later, a co-worker came to me and asked me where that plan went since she hadn't heard anything in a while. I explained the situation and made a copy of the information for her so she could give it a whirl too. She went to another representative of that committee who hadn't heard of the plan before because he had just joined. He came to me and asked me some questions so he could present it again. I told him what had been discovered about the trash service and he presented it in such a manner to show that, in the long run, we would actually be saving money because recycling is considerably cheaper than trash service.

What did it feel like when your proposal was finally approved?

It felt like a victory for the planet! I think I did the wave right there in my cubicle.

Were the other employees immediately receptive to the idea of recycling at work?

The news spread around the whole store and there were a lot of excited people that I didn't even know were supporters.

Do you find that it is being adhered to?

Well, we're still in the roll out stages since this just happened recently. We have to have the dumpster delivered and set up recycling containers in the store. I have a feeling it will really take off though. When I first transferred to this location last year, hardly anyone was using the boxes we have placed for paper shredding and they were just throwing all of their paper in the trash. They didn't know that everything that got shredded in those boxes was recycled. Since that word has spread we've had to add more boxes because they're always full now. I think this will be the same way.

What are some other ways you are green in your own daily life?

I take public transportation 3 to 4 times every week to lessen the demand on oil and create fewer emissions...I get a lot of reading done too. :)

I only use household cleaners, detergents, body care and cosmetics (pretty much everything) that are free of petroleum products, bleach and are 100% plant based.

I buy organic and items made from recycled materials when I can.

As my light bulbs run out, I replace them with energy saving ones and I try to unplug electronics when they're not in use so they don't leak energy when they're not even on.

I make an effort to never use disposable water bottles and to use my own cup when I buy coffee or tea away from home.

I’d have to say though, that the biggest effort that I’ve completed is to transform my diet and my lifestyle and go 100% vegan. It’s not just good for people and for the animals that we eat, but raising and feeding those animals for human consumption really takes a large toll on the environment.

Are there other Earth friendly causes or programs you are attempting to institute at your job or other locations?

Next up at work: the transition from bottled water for customers to a water cooler step at a time, right?

I’ve recently written a letter to Starbucks on their website encouraging them to curb their excessive water usage and to make recycling mandatory in all of their United States locations. I encourage anyone and everyone to write them as well. We need to make a big voice to be heard with such a large corporation. Use my letter or email it to everyone you know and have them get involved as well.

I’ve also recently joined a local animal rights group and have gotten involved in raising money for farm sanctuary, a non-profit animal rescue, and for yesonprop2 in California, which is coming up in this November’s election.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

In defense of baby steps

Note: Hi, Melissa again. I know, I know, two blogs in one week...but Jenn deserves the occasional break, right? And there's been more than usual inspiration for me of late, so I thought I'd run with it!

I mentioned in my last blog that I went to an event put on by Ayer Local, a new group in my town that's out to put the spotlight on sustainability and getting residents motivated to buy goods and services locally.

The group is getting its name out there to the town via a series of monthly movies, and the first was The Story of Stuff, an animated short about the impact that the lifecycle of the products we buy has on the environment, natural resources and communities.

Afterward, we split into groups of eight to 10 people to talk about the film. The evening's moderator (one of our town selectwomen, I'm thrilled to report!) gave us some questions to get the talk flowing.

So this one particular set of questions was, “What can you as an individual/your family/your community do to change things?” A few people volunteered some answers, mostly upbeat and positive.

Then one woman said, and I'm paraphrasing a bit, “I recycle my handful of seltzer water bottles and beer cans at home, but I work a few days a week at a restaurant in Concord, and they don't recycle at all. You know, it's like that statistic in the film, where for every can of trash we put out at the curb, there are 70 cans of waste upstream that were generated in making what we are now throwing away.

“I sometimes think," she continued, "that the emphasis on individual actions is a distraction, to keep us from thinking about the bigger picture, when what we should be doing is writing to our representatives and getting politically involved.”

She seemed somewhere between impatient and resigned. I'd only just met her, so it was hard to tell. She did mention having been concerned with many of these same issues since the 70s, so obviously she cared.

I saw her point, I really did. But I couldn't agree completely. Yes, people do need to hammer away at their elected officials and elect ones who will make sustainability and other environmental issues a priority.

But what this woman said seemed to imply that everyone doing their bit – whether it's recycling or reducing their carbon footprint or buying local – isn't really relevant, in the grand scheme of things. So if we don't all individually become legislators or climate-change scientists or globally-recognized environmental advocates, is there any point?

For my part, the answer is a resounding “yes!” It's perfectly true that just putting out the recycling or unplugging our appliances, individually, is not going to solve the climate change problems we're facing, but not doing it definitely just worsens the situation.

And it's more than that: Taking these steps, and letting others know we're taking them, and why, creates a ripple effect. Here is the key thing: even if having every person on the planet recycle, or unplug appliances (OK, these are just examples, I do know there are more critical actions we could take!) isn't enough to save the polar icecap, it seems to me that the more we begin to move in this direction, the further we want to take our efforts. We inspire ourselves and each other.

So if someone sees you take the initiative to, say, take some of your restaurant's bottles and cans home to recycle them yourself, maybe they'll help you. Or maybe they'll be fired up to find out how to institute a real, full-time recycling program for the restaurant. And when they do that, maybe they'll be so pumped up, they'll run for office and start working the system from the inside, and wind up writing or at least passing some piece of legislation that helps save the planet. Or maybe you'll do all that yourself!

Yes, that's probably a bit extreme. But it could happen. Of course, everyone's not going to become a legislator, or even write to their elected representatives. But the little steps matter because, without them, some people would never get moving at all. Baby steps move us all forward, however incrementally. And that is the direction we need to go.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Eco-meme -- I Have Been Tagged

On my personal blog I can not get enough of tags, they work out fantastic when I go through dry spells and have nothing to say. Plus there is nothing like sharing quirky randomness with the blogosphere to really let people know the real you. Or at the very least the realest you that you are willing to put online for everyone to get to know.

I have not yet been tagged over here at Green Leaf Reviewer until Hyla from Green Earth Journey did so a few days ago. I thought about this a lot as I know there is no true obligation to satisfy the requirements of a tag but I felt compelled to complete it anyway. But as per my usual, I am doing so with a little twist. The rules are published as follows:

* Link to the person who tagged you
* Post the rules on your blog
* Write six random things about yourself
* Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them
* Let each person know they've been tagged

In lieu of random facts about myself I intend to share random items I have been introduced to of late as related to the environment. Hopefully these topics will raise awareness and spark conversations either here or on each of our own blogs. Think of it as six mini GLR blogs in one! Also I never tag back so if you would like to snag this, by all means please do so!

1. CPSIA. What is it many of you may be asking? I had begun reading about this topic over on Etsy a few months ago and since then Julie has shared some additional information on her own blog regarding this very hot button topic. CPSIA stands for Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act and was enacted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in 2008 as a way to ensure all items sold for children are free of lead. This goes into effect on February 10, 2009 and has become a hot button issue because items must be tested to ensure compliance. Due to the cost prohibitive nature of certain lab testing methods, many home based businesses will be forced to close leaving many entrepreneurs out of work. Please feel free to read the CPSC Press Release from January 8, 2009 for more detailed information.

2. Green Art. Victoria from Victoria Case Art Design was looking for a way to go green in her work so when she came across Green Art colored pencils and watercolor paints her curiosity was peaked and environmental nature satisfied. She tried out the pencils and gave us all her very honest review of their performance both from a professional opinion as well as what a lay person (or child) might think. Today she added her ten cents regarding the watercolors and in brief, she did not find them adequate for professional use but certainly wonderful for the everyday user. Moms purchasing such items for art classes be on notice and check out this Earth friendly option!

3. The dirtiest clean coal I have ever seen. In Harriman, Tennessee on December 22, 2008 a coal sludge spill of about two and a half million cubic yards was introduced into the land surrounding the Kingston Fossil Plant. Twelve homes were damaged, one of which was ripped from its foundation, after the retaining wall at the coal plant collapsed and the grey ash sludge spread its way to over 400 acres of land, six feet in depth. This spill is one of the worst environmental disasters of our time and the fact that it did not get a lot of press nationally is simply wrong. I wanted to thank Charmaine for bringing this news story to my attention and let everyone know that additional details can be read on the Environmental News Service website.

4. In happier news on this subject, the Obama EPA Administration plans to begin investigations into all coal ash ponds nationally, regardless of the fact that they are not subject to federal regulations. The plants are but the off site storage facilities of the sludge are not and although it was proposed to set a national measure on them by the EPA in 2000, they never proceeded under the Bush Administration. Obama is primed to do so now as not only one spill has occurred as indicated above, but a second in Stevenson, Alabama just five days ago. Both spills occurred at facilities maintained by Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The sludge can contain toxins such as mercury or arsenic so I fully applaud the Obama EPA for making these initial strides to shore up and hopefully regulate such facilities before more harm is done.

5. Follett Higher Education Group. My Aunt is a nurse and attends a local college here in Massachusetts. She popped into the book store and discovered that they, as well as a number of other educational facilities, are doing their part to go green! FHEG is a manager of bookstores nationwide (over 750) and additionally provide support, product and services to another 1,800 stores across the United States. Their goals include sustainability and they are now rolling out reusable bags available for purchase at just $0.99 as opposed to the plastic bags of the past. For a student this is ideal as this bag will be utilized many, many, many times over during the course of collegiate life!

6. It is called natural selection for a reason. It was reported today that on Macquarie Island in Australia some thought it would be a fine idea to remove all the feral cats so the native sea bird population would rebound. In doing so it triggered an increase in the population of rabbits. Rabbits like to eat leafy greens. Those leafy greens were what the birds used as cover from predators. See where I am going with this? The cats and rabbits (as well as rats and mice), it is suggested, were introduced via ships over the past century. Since they are not native species it is now deemed acceptable to begin poisoning those animals to eradicate them so the birds can once again thrive on the island.

So there you have it. Please feel free to share your thoughts on any or all of these topics!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Film review: The Story of Stuff

Note: Hey all, Jenn's SIL Melissa here. Went to a movie...Jenn asked for my two cents, so here it is. Enjoy!

For most of us, a trip to the nearest mall or mega-mart means picking up a quick handful of items at a nice, cheap price. A no-brainer. But after viewing the short film
The Story of Stuff, you just might find your brain piping up to remind you of all that goes into (and comes out of) all those things that find their way into your shopping cart and your home.

The film, a 20-minute Web documentary, was screened by Ayer Local, a new community organization in my hometown of Ayer, MA, with an ambitious slate: “to raise awareness of sustainability issues, reduce energy consumption, and promote local food & economy in order to build a resilient community that is sustainable for future generations.” (Thrilled to have them in town!)

eleased on the Web in late 2007 (, The Story of Stuff is narrated by Annie Leonard, “ an expert in international sustainability and environmental health issues, with more than 20 years of experience investigating factories and dumps around the world,” according to her Web site bio. She is also coordinator of the Funders Workgroup for Sustainable Production and Consumption, a funder collaborative working for a sustainable and just world.

The Story of Stuff
is the current centerpiece of Leonard's mission to spread the word about the impact of consumerism and materialism on global economies and international health.

Leonard spiels her spiel in front of an animated backdrop detailing the entire life cycle of, well, stuff, from extraction of resource materials through production, distribution, consumption and ultimately, you guessed it, disposal.

Along the way, she touches on the many problems inherent in this cycle, supporting her arguments with statistics that make viewers sit up and take notice. Among the more illuminating observations:

  • The U.S. has five percent of the world's population but consumes 30 percent of the world's resources and creates 30 percent of the world's waste.

  • Each person in the United States makes 4 ½ pounds of garbage a day, twice what we each made 30 years ago.

  • For every one garbage can of waste you put on the curb, 70 garbage cans of waste were made upstream to make the junk in that one can.

The one I found maybe the most disturbing:

  • 99 percent of everything we purchase is disposed of within six months (!).

Cute, clever graphics aside, it's hard to miss the message: this is a recipe for destruction. But as the picture grows grimmer and grimmer throughout the narrative, Leonard ends on the ultimate positive note: “It's not like gravity that we just have to live with. People created this problem, and we are people, too.” Ergo, we can un-create it.

OK: The movie's eye-opening and it's entertaining. And it definitely makes you want to do something. But if you're looking for balance, you probably want to look somewhere else. This film is short, and the problems it details are, well, not.
The Story of Stuff is geared to provoke: discussion, action, you name it. It's opinionated, and it pulls no punches.

That said, the message is completely valid: When it comes to stuff, we all need to think beyond our desire for instant gratification and remember that a cheap price may be hiding a far steeper cost for the environment, for natural resources and for communities around the globe.

GLR rating: 4 out of 5 leaves

Note: In case any Ayer townies out there are reading this, The Story of Stuff was the first in Ayer Local's “2nd Friday at the Movies” series, aimed at introducing the new organization to a wider swath of the town and getting some meaningful dialogue underway about how to get some positive changes going in Ayer. Look for more thought- and discussion-provoking films in the coming months.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Save Me A Seed Dude!

What might happen to all of the plants in the world if the global temperature continues to rise? The Millennium Seed Bank Project (MSBP) is hoping to avoid finding out by starting a collective for seeds of all species.

Are you now asking two questions -- what is the MSBP and how can I help? Well read on for answers to both questions!

Based on the definition explained to us on the MSBP Wikipedia page:

“The Millennium Seed Bank Project is an international conservation project coordinated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Launched in the year 2000 and housed in the Wellcome Trust Millennium Building situated in the grounds of Wakehurst Place West Sussex, its purpose is to provide an "insurance policy" against the extinction of plants in the wild by storing seeds for future use. The storage facilities consist of large underground frozen vaults preserving the world's largest collection of seeds.”

With the rising global temperature many species are experiencing the beginning effects of possible extinction and this is where the MSBP comes in by goaling to store up to 10% of all wild plant species seeds by the end of 2010. But they are in trouble because the financial status of the entire world is in such turmoil and they are no longer gaining the steady donations they once were. Many environmentalists are wondering if it is because not enough people have heard of the MSBP and one group in particular is really doing their part to spread the word.

SuperForest, which some of you already read (a link to which is over on the right side bar), is a lovely organization and they have conceived of a fantastic way to help. By sharing information about their Save-A-Seed coalition among fellow bloggers, they are hoping to not only raise awareness but donations to support a single seed.

Here’s the seedy low down. Get it? Seedy. Yeah, luckily I crack myself up.

The cost to ensure one seed will survive is approximately $3,000 USD. SuperForest has a PayPal donation button right on their page where donations can be made for the cause. They have already collected over $1,000 but help is still needed for the additional $2,000. SuperForest is asking for that help in any way possible either through donations or simply spreading the word amongst the blogosphere so others who may not have heard of the cause can do their part to keep the information readily available.

Please consider linking back to this blog post on your own blogs to keep the information flowing, checking out SuperForest and linking back to them as well and/or donating even a few charitable dollars to the cause through the donation link. Together we will ensure the survival of the MSBP and protect up to 25% of the world’s plant population by the year 2020.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Fun to End the Weekend

When we have a healthy attitude towards life, we uncover the beauty, wonder and inspiration within us that enables us to really appreciate those same qualities outside in the world.
-Craig Nicholson

Friday, January 9, 2009

More Music From Those Who Care

It is no secret to those who know me that Jason Mraz is quite possibly my favorite songwriter of all time. He has a way with words that, as a writer, I respect and admire. His point is always there, even if it is sometimes hidden within double entendre and, in his own proclamation, Wordplay. His hotness factor went up about a million clicks on the scale when I discovered he is also an environmentally conscious musician who attempts to do all he can to care for this great planet of ours. When I discovered the following song it went right into my top 100 of all time play list. I apologize and warn all there is strong language in this song but it definitely gets the point across. The time to act is now.

Collapsible Plans

What if these plans are collapsible
Why don't we try to be responsible
For the other motherfuckers that were searchin’ for the end of the rainbow
Ask me about the impossible
I tell you that everything is applaudable
For life is a proscenium stage and we are the stars
And the audience that we captivate is already ours

And we're more aren't we
Yes we're more aren't we all we are

So collapse all your plans
Like a map in your hands
Cause it won't take long to burn the motherfucker down

Many disaster unnatural
We have the ability it's remarkable
To cycle through the seasons adapting to the reason the waters low
If we listen to the sign of the times when she calls we'll know

That we're more aren't we
Yes we're more aren't we all we are

So collapse all your plans
Like a map in your hands
Cause it won't take long to spot the motherfucker down

So goodbye to your plans
And hello to a land
Where it won't take long to burn the motherfucker down

Move your feet when you pray child
Are you ready to change the way that you've been living your life up til now
The danger is more than a rain cloud
Will you adhere to the new solution to use less the useless uses of pollution hell yes

So collapse all your plans
Like a map in your hands
Cause it won't be hard to spot the motherfucker down
Say goodbye to your plans
And hello to a land
Where it won't take long to burn the motherfucker down

Say goodbye to your family
And hello to understanding
That it won't take long to burn this mother down
So collapse all your plans
And relax if you can
Cause it won't take long to burn this motherfucker down

No it won't take long to burn this mother down
No it won't take long to burn this mother down
No it won't take long to burn this mother down
No it won't take long to burn this mother down
No it won't take long to burn this mother down
Oh to burn her to the ground
No it won't take long to burn this mother down
No it won't take long to burn this mother down
No it won't take long to burn this mother down
No it won't take long to burn this mother down
No it won't take long to burn this mother down
No it won't take long to burn this mother down
No it won't take long to burn this mother down
It won't take long to burn this mother down

Thursday, January 8, 2009

President Elect Obama Shares Hope for 2009 if We Make Changes Now

This morning President Elect Barack Obama made an unprecedented speech with regard to the current economy and all he fully intends to do to immediately upon being sworn into the office of President of the United States to turn this country around. He places the responsibility on the Government to lead the charge and is brilliant to indicate that since we got ourselves into the mess we can also get ourselves out and become stronger on the other side. President Elect Obama fully believes in the abilities of the people of this country. All of them.

I am counting down the days to January 20, 2009 and look forward to all people investing what they can to repair and rebuild our great country be it monetarily, through labor or intellect. Yes we will.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

AngelFood Ministries is Helping Neighbors

Last night was the second Bennetts Brook Green Group meeting and although there were fewer members present this month there was still fantastic conversation going around with relation to many different environmentally related topics. We started the night discussing the progress of our entertainment center and some of the snags Matt has encountered with using the pallet wood (update soon; the snags are not what one might think). Melissa talked about her recently renovated basement and the benefits of researching prior to purchasing potentially unneeded materials. We discussed my Mom’s amazing efforts to reduce her electric bill through unplugging and other simple methods and then discussed benefits and drawbacks of certain types of de-icing materials. Sue provided some wonderful information with regard to the drawbacks of sugar and then she shared details of a program a friend, who was interested in saving some money, had passed on to her called AngelFood Ministries.

The mission of AngelFood is to provide brand name, wholesome foods to all people at a reduced cost. The ministry operates out of Grace Church in Hudson, Massachusetts and food orders can be placed either in person or online. The most exciting part of the program is that, according to their website, it is open to anyone not just church congregants. For thirty dollars a box of food can be ordered and it is enough to feed a single person for up to a month or a family of four for about a week. There is no application process and no income verification but orders must be picked up in person at the church.

The food provided is not day old or dented cans but restaurant grade meats and fresh produce. Also, there is no limit to the number of units or special orders that can be purchased however an initial purchase is required prior to ability to purchase special orders containing meats such as steak, chicken and pork products. When picking up the food the purchaser must bring their own bag or box.

In tough economic times it is a wonderful affirmation to see caring and compassion stretching to such a humanitarian cause as ensuring people are fed for a little bit less financial outgo.

For those in Massachusetts who are interested in checking out the program I encourage reading through the website, visiting Grace Church at 353 River Road in Hudson or calling the AngelFood information line at (978) 562-8550 x109 (answering machine).

Monday, January 5, 2009

Money Doesn’t Grow On Trees Anymore

We have all heard the expression but after thinking about it a little bit today I realized that, well, essentially it does since the most frequently used money is made from paper. In 2000 the United States released the $1 Golden Coin called the Sacagawea with little interest to most, with the exception of some coin collectors. It might be surprising to learn that in the year 2007 the United States began a new $1 coin program featuring the Presidents.

Direct from the US Mint website:

“The United States is honoring our Nation’s Presidents by issuing $1 circulating coins featuring their images in the order that they served. The United States Mint issues four Presidential $1 Coins per year, with Presidents Harrison, Tyler, Polk, and Taylor being honored in 2009. Each coin has a common reverse design featuring a striking rendition of the Statue of Liberty. These coins feature larger, more dramatic artwork, as well as edge-incused inscriptions of the year of minting or issuance, "E Pluribus Unum" and the mint mark. "In God We Trust" will appear on the face of the coin starting in 2009. Although the size, weight and metal composition of the new Presidential $1 Coin are identical to that of the Sacagawea Golden Dollar, there are several unique features that make this coin distinctive.”

One of the coolest things about these coins is that they are not made of paper. A paper bill will go into circulation and last upwards of four years before it is destroyed. That is certainly a lot of trees killed since the United States prints billions of dollars annually. The coins can last for up to forty years in circulation which will significantly reduce the environmental impact of creating money. In addition to the obvious saving of trees another advantage is that once the coin comes out of circulation it can simply be melted down to create a brand new, shiny, dollar. Now that is recycling at its finest!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Blue Ocean Institute Rates Over Thirty Five Seafood Species

During our visit to the EcoTarium in late December I picked up a pamphlet entitled Guide to Ocean Friendly Seafood while walking through the water area. I put it aside for the time being but picked it back up this morning and sat down to read through the ratings of marine life as food. The Blue Ocean Institute (BOI) has provided amazing information on everything from clams to swordfish to Chilean sea bass and just about everything in between. The information on the pamphlet was updated in the fall of 2007.

Their rating system is based on a few factors -- abundance, fish/farm methods, damage to habitat, sustainability and mercury levels. The pamphlet categorizes each species with a key that include colored fish (which range in colors from dark green to red -- dark green is best overall), a fish silhouette inside a blue oval (signifying sustainability by the Marine Stewardship Council [MSC]), and a flag (indicating high mercury levels).

The website for BOI also includes the information on each of these fish but I found a few draw backs by using the online option as opposed to the accordion-fold paper pamphlet. First, the website forces the user to click on a thumbnail of each fish type (such as salmon) which then shows the rating of each of the different types within the species (Atlantic, Alaska, Pacific) on a corresponding page. In order to review all marine types it is necessary to click back and forth; it is possible to review all types but is a little bit more time consuming. The next issue is that it is much easier to pull this quick reference guide out of a purse or wallet while at a restaurant since not everyone has access to the Internet from their handheld device; smarter choices can be made while eating out. Finally, I did not find all of the same information as readily online; to find a rating for clams, mussels or oysters online I had to enter the name into the search box but they are listed first on the pamphlet.

Despite any of these drawbacks to the reference guide, I did find the website to be extremely informational as it also includes a plethora of information specific to sushi, Seafood FAQs, video, guide to chefs and loads of additional information as related to our oceans and what we consume from their depths. Also, the website has the guide available for download and it can easily be cut out, folded and carried on the go.

Overall I feel that the Blue Ocean Institute is a fantastic organization for information on how we all can make a difference by selecting seafood that is safer and sustainable so I am granting this organization a Four Leaf Rating.

I will continue to check in with this organization from time to time to see if and when their pamphlet information is updated. I applaud BOI for their determination to provide us with unbiased facts with regard to the foods we enjoy eating that come from the sea.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Save the Earth with Facebook

A while ago I joined Facebook as a fun way to keep up with my real life and virtual friends and as I have dug deeper into this social networking site I have discovered they have partnered with some amazing environmental and humanitarian organizations through the use of applications that can be added to a user profile. I have a few of these applications attached to my own profile and enjoy the fun of sending items back and forth, knowing that each time I do it is helping to make a real difference.

African Safari will donate a life saving net to a family in Africa for each animal sent between friends. The organization donated to is called Nothing But nets and can save a child from malaria related death through each $10 donated.

The Lil Green Patch allows flowers and fruit to be planted in a virtual garden and through the sharing of these items over 96,000,000 square feet of rainforest have already been saved.

I also have a Sea Garden which allows friends and I to share creatures back and forth to help oceanic causes such as the Surfrider Foundation; Sea Garden is the number one donor to this cause out of over 50,000 supporters.

In addition to these fantastic applications Facebook is also chock full of pages for so many wonderful organizations I already belong to such as We Can Solve It, 1Sky, Focus the Nation and Eco Etsy. The ability to keep up with the latest news and events with each of these organizations in just one place is extremely convenient.

Friday, January 2, 2009

All Nations Are Joining in the Fight for a Better Environment

This video from the Scottish Environmental Minister is inspiring to watch as he details their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by the year 2050 as well as their impending marine bill and use of renewable energy resources. It is a global issue and it is fantastic to see that many other nations, large and small, are not only aware of the threat but that they are taking steps to do their part to better the planet for all living things. Way to go Scotland!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Shaving Waste From A Landfill with a Razor Sharpener?

Here in the United States there are several large companies that provide tools for hair removal through a blade of some sort -- Gillette, Norelco, Bic and Schick are some of the best known to provide disposable or electric shaving implements. Electric razors are a good environmental choice as they help reduce waste from landfills since the heads or foils will be used many more times than a disposable blade but they are also a draw on electricity as they recharge through a base unit. Since the base can be unplugged while not in use however a moderate offset can be achieved. As a gal who prefers to take care of this particular activity while showering, an electric solution is not feasible for me so I have been interested to find something that would extend the life of the razors I do use if at all possible.

While watching television I was introduced to a product called Save A Blade which claims to resharpen the blades of disposable style razors, therefore extending their life to approximately 200 shaves from a single blade. I was intrigued and decided to look into reviews of users who had tried the product to see if others think it is as great as it claims to be.

The first place I went was Amazon because I have never found the reviews to be held back -- if a user loves or hates the item they share their opinion freely. Save A Blade received nine reviews for a mix of two with five stars, one with two stars but six with one star. The most commonly stated fact was that the unit will destroy the blades, not sharpen them and that it will actually cause more cuts than before it was used. Ouch!

While doing my research however I came across some information for a way to extend the life of a blade that was so simple I almost yelled “well, duh”! Dry off the blade after use. The blade of a razor will oxidize and rust when introduced to moisture for lengthy periods of time which causes pitting, the main offender for killing a blade. Simply drying it off with a towel by patting lightly or using a hair dryer is said to lengthen the life by 122%. But be cautious of using a hair dryer only if it is already in use as otherwise it is a definite waste of electricity. Nothing like a free solution to saving a little money and the environment as well as a few band-aids since there will be far fewer nicks or cuts to heal.