Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mixed Feelings on

Good morning everyone, it sure has been a while since we’ve connected over here I know. I keep saying that too but luckily I know myself well enough to not promise that it will get better because who knows where the wind will blow me next. I just hope that the proverbial wind has a turbine to store its power because I feel like I’ve been around the world and back and that would be some useful energy reserves for sure!

I come to you today with a follow up of a company and concept that I talked about back on June 13, 2010, At the time they were named and a bloggy buddy of mine turned me on to the concept as it was a one stop shop to trade books, movies, CD’s and video games. For just the cost to ship the item back and forth you could have a whole new library of media at your fingertips.

Eager to get started, I signed up right away. There were issues with setting up my account and my gut reaction was to give a Two and a Half Leaf Rating. After things were fixed I changed it to a Four Leaf Rating but I think I should have gotten a little further in the pool before throwing leaves around like that.

I listed a book that I had already read that was sitting on my shelf gathering dust. I created a wish list of books that I was interested in receiving. Then I waited. But not for long! By the end of July I had a trade partner who indicated they had the book I wanted and that they wanted the book I had. Sold!

Within a day or two I purchased a bubble mailer (couldn’t believe I was out of them in my stash!) and hit the post office to ship the book. All totaled I spent about $6.00 to get this book out. The book I traded for was one that our Book Club was going to be reading in the coming months so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

Then I waited. And waited. And waited…

In the later part of August I initiated an issue with the trade on the website. It was somewhat easy to navigate as there were links to click that said I hadn’t received my trade. We went back and forth through the end of August and into mid September before the trade partner (who had long ago given me a fantastic rating mind you) got in touch to let me know the book had shipped at the end of July.

That was it. No sorry you didn’t receive it, gee it must have gotten lost in the mail, nothing. I understand that things happen but with only one trade under their belt so far and such a lag in communication I was starting to smell the signs of something fishy.

With no additional recourse I had no choice but to just basically deal with it. I had spent money to get the book out to them but I chalked it up to my karma bank and went on with my life. Right after I cancelled my account with the site.

Then, early last week, a package arrived from Amazon and inside it was the book I had traded for. Mind you, I had already gone out to my local used book reseller in September when the trade died and purchased this book, so clearly I didn’t need a second copy.

I started to worry myself that I had somehow ordered it online without remembering and I checked all my accounts but there was nothing to indicate I had spent any money on this item. And with the return address being listed as my own, I was mystified.

Then this morning (November 3, 2010) I received this in email from

Your trade partner provided the following additional information: The replacement has been purchased and sent through Amazon and the order info is: xxx-xxxxxxx-xxxxxxx The order will be received by the recipient on October 22, 2010 and tracking is available.

October 22 was two weeks ago, pretty close to when the item was received. Way to be on the ball there guys!

I do not regret my decision to cancel my account as I feel that this is clearly the wrong outlet for me. I know that some of you have had great experiences with them and I hope you continue to have those great experiences because that is what makes the internet amazing, the ability to seek out and find what works and what doesn’t for each individual. For me…well, I’ll stick with when I’m ready to get rid of media from now on.

Monday, October 18, 2010

How to Seal a Bag and Make It Air Tight

Our great friend Trayce sent this terrific tip over and I was blown away! Not only does this help to seal the bag but the most thrown away portion of a plastic water bottle, the cap, is functionally utilized by extending its lifecycle. If we all learned to think creatively like this we could save countless pounds of non-biodegradable waste from landfills.

Air Tight Steps

Cut up a disposable water bottle and keep the neck and top.

Insert the plastic bag through the neck and screw the top – to seal.

The bottle is made to be air-tight, such that water will not leak, the secret lies with the top and screw! This is a great idea to share, feel free to pass on the link and let everyone see how easy it can be to save plastic waste and save the items inside the bag for even longer! Thanks for forwarding on the great idea Trayce ♥love♥

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What Started Out As Newspaper…

The cleaning up and cleaning out of my grandparent’s old home continues so when Matt and I stopped by the other day to help my aunt get a chair out to the curb I wasn’t at all surprised to find this tacked up on the back of the door to the kitchen:

My old hometown is coming up on its 21st anniversary of recycling. Hooray!

The rest of that side of the page consists of the calendar of pick up dates and a cute little cartoon with a very enthusiastic stick figure announcing that they recycle, proudly! When I flipped the page over I discovered that in addition to newspaper, they were also collecting dropped off (and clean) glass items once a month.  Oh, and the newsletter was printed on already recycled paper.  Nice!

Rain or shine, in a paper bag or a bin, everyone’s newspapers became the catalyst toward a fantastic eco movement in Arlington!

According to the Recycling section of the Department of Public Works website, Arlington now recycles “yard waste, trash collection, white goods, household hazardous waste, CRT/TV collection and more.”, quite an achievement for a mid-sized town in only 20 years!

Good for you for thinking so progressively back then Arlington, thanks for thinking environmentally in the midst of the consumption age. You are the example of how to start small and build a program from one tiny shift in thinking. ♥love♥

Interested in your own town or city’s recycling history? Why not give your Public Works Department a call. Or better yet, stop by for a visit and chat with the employees. If your town has had a recycling program in place for even one day they are making a difference. Tell them thanks and shake their hand!

Happy recycling!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Burt’s Bees Is A Zero Waste Company

This past summer the super cool company Burt’s Bees announced it was going zero waste.  They were always a company who cared about the planet (as evidenced by their commitment to natural based products) and recycled the basics -- paper, plastic, metal, glass -- but within just three short years their special task force of ECOBEES rendered their dumpsters useless.

So how on Earth did they do it?

Well it started out with six-bin waste-sorting stations being sprinkled all over their offices.  Employees were encouraged to sort it out and harness the responsibility of, well, being responsible!  In particular the company is most proud of the compost station as it has managed to keep 300 tons of material out of landfills over the past 31 months, since March 2008.

Not only have they managed to recycle or reuse the top four ‘basics’ items above, but they went that step further and now recycle every bit of their corrugated cardboard, chipboard, wood, shrink wrap and fiberboard too.

They created a way to give back to the Earth with the compost station.  In the break room employees are encouraged to grab a one time type use utensil -- they are 100% compostable and made from potatos (reusable too)!  They also found a way to extend the lifecycle of recycled waste other than as fertilizer or simply being melted down to create more of the same.    

At special waste-to-energy facilities, the items that can’t be utilized for other sources (ie. compost into soil) are used as fuel to power cement kilns.  Even after the items in question have been burned, the leftover ash is mixed in to make cinder blocks.

And oh yeah, they are also composting the waste residue left over at their water treatment facility.

The ECOBEES staged all manner of dumpster diving and bee-cycle swaps (Get it?  Bee-cycle instead of Freecycle?  Those Bees sure are a clever bunch!), and with their continued efforts who knows how far Burt’s Bees will be able to take their environmental awareness.

Thanks Burt’s Bees, it’s companies like yours that teach the rest of us that eco-responsibility can happen at work no matter how big or how small the staff or organization!  ♥love♥

Thanks to GLR friend Julie for sending over this story idea! 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Life Is Good!

This past weekend here in Canton, Massachusetts the well known lover of all dogs, Life Is Good, held their rockin’ good time festival and Matt and I were lucky enough to attend on Sunday.

The festival, held on the grounds of Prowse Farm, featured so much it would be almost impossible to list it all here but I’ll highlight the stuff we took part in and saw.

We started the day with the best part of all -- free parking! Parking was graciously donated by Reebok as their building was about a ten minute walk from the field and they had a parking garage which housed a healthy number of cars. Instead of waiting for a shuttle bus, Matt and I walked the distance to the field with our beach chairs, backpack (filled with towels, a roll of toilet paper, our Nalgene bottles and travel sized Scrabble) and a smile.

We arrived right on time to get set up to see Emily Elbert. Originally from Texas, Emily went to school right here in Boston at Berkley. We’ve seen her live before and couldn’t wait to catch her act on a much larger stage. The music she does is a nice mix of bluesy, jazzy, poppy, rock and her voice holds so much soul you’d never think it was coming from such a teeny girl. She rocked and even had an interpreter signing for the crowd!

From there we made our way to get some food from the local vendors and the prices were really reasonable which was a welcomed change from most festivals I’ve attended. We passed the Life Is Good merchandise tent on the way. Oh yeah, did I happen to mention that 100% of the proceeds from this event of LiG merch are being donated to the Life is Good Kids Foundation?


Next up for us was They Might Be Giants, one of Matt’s all time favorite acts. They have taken to doing lots of kids music in recent years but we’ve discovered that the jokes and chatting the guys do on stage in between the tunes is all for the grown ups. So, sans kids of our own, we hung out on the periphery and enjoyed the fun!  They made a funny reference to Woodstock when one of the John's came up to make an announcement and I even recognized a few tunes (Alphabet of Nations I think is one of them) from having taken our nephews to their show a few months back.

We had a bunch of idle time until the next act we were interested in seeing so it was time to mingle -- festival style!

We passed on taking part in the sporting events because we just like to walk around (and also because we both had a drink so safety first!). There was a rock climbing wall, Frisbee toss, bocce, tug-o-war and a whole slew of other fun stuff for all ages to take part in! On the way around we passed the Art for All Mural (pictured at the top of the post) and I was in love!

It consists of 1500 tiles that are hand painted in pre-determined colors/palates by selected volunteers and when it is all put together this 25’ high by 31’ wide canvas is a most impressive piece.

We made our way around to catch a little bit of Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars on the main stage (who were quite grooving, I danced my way across the field!) and then headed back to the smaller stage to watch OK Go and Brett Dennen.

We played a little Scrabble (I won which is pretty normal around here, I come from a long lineage of fierce Scrabble competitors!)

Took a few photos.

And then, I had a Say Anything moment with my favorite eco-conscious musician, the headliner that night, Jason Mraz. Just like Lloyd Dobler and Diane Court “shared a moment” in a mall food court in that movie, my moment with Jason was quite the exciting sighting for me. He passed by about ten feet away with, I think, his Joyologist Tricia but I wouldn’t swear to it. They were walking with a purpose and headed toward the main stage.

I nudged Matt and pointed Jason out but he didn’t catch on until the man himself had already passed by. Oh well, maybe one of these days I won’t be so shy and just approach the guy. I mean really, we have the planet in common at least even if nothing else right?

After Brett was wrapped up we had a lot of time before the next act we wanted to see, Jason, so we kind of milled about the place. We caught a slight snippet of Guster (good!) and Corinne Bailey Rae (very mellow) but when we got to the kid’s tent I was really happy we walked all the way down there.

We were lucky enough to see most of Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue and they were amazing! The name says it all, with Cajun, jazz and big band swing influence this act even got Matt dancing (a treasured moment to be sure!). These guys were supposed to open the main stage but had travel problems and couldn’t make it in for the 12:30 start. We were both really glad to have caught the act.

A little more wandering, people watching, throwing trash into the designated receptacles for compost, recycling and trash itself and claiming our spot to see the main stage from a vantage point a healthy distance away and we were ready for the main act.

Jason took the stage right on time and it was such a great performance we ended up heading closer toward the crowd so I could concert call a few friends, also fans of his.

Matt and I danced the entire set and it was a super fun show. Jason was opening his tour this month and I don’t know for sure but I think this was the first stop. He was full of energy and so was the huge crowd even when he performed a whole bunch of new music. At one point he tossed a piece of his cantaloupe into a guy’s mouth in the crowd then later invited the same guy (Joe) and another gal (Katie) up on stage to dance. Good times.

After the satisfying end to a day full of love, fun and music we walked back to the car, tired but happy to have had the experience and lucky enough to sit in zero traffic when leaving.

Thanks for such a great event Life is Good, the day was phenomenal and I can’t wait to hear how much you raised to support the Kids Foundation! ♥love♥

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Green Streets Day

On the last Friday of every month Portland, Maine rolls out the eco carpet to host Green Streets Day. ‘What is that?’ you may be asking. Well it is a locally launched movement staged by the town’s residents to think planet.

I love to hear when stuff like this is taking place in my own region of the country, way to go Portland!

Residents and tourists alike are asked to wear something green while they think up Greener ways to live their lives. Local businesses who support and commit to a more eco-conscious way of doing things are staffed and ready to answer all manner of questions.

Whether it is the one day a month you take public transportation or the 365th in a row you placed scraps into your back yard composter, there is something about an entire community coming together for one likeminded purpose that makes me smile.

Upcoming dates include:
September 24, 2010
October 29, 2010
November 26, 2010
December 31, 2010

If you’re in the Portland, Maine area I highly encourage you to check it out!

Thanks goes out to my Aunt for forwarding on this story!

Friday, September 10, 2010

And the Respite Comes to a Close

Good afternoon everyone! Wow, what a crazy summer it was around here -- from beach to BBQ, work to working out, birthdays to baby showers, road trips, writing, paint jobs and library visits there was barely a chance to breathe let alone gather up the steam to post!

In fact my personal blog, articles, query letters, well, everything really, took a major break for the glorious sunshine and hot weather here in Boston this summer. It really was worth it to give myself a slightly larger berth than I usually do to just chill.

But now we’re back toward fall temperatures and back to school for many so the pace around here slows to a crawl until the holidays. That sounds pretty nice to me! In fact, although I do sort of look forward to apple picking and foliage peeping, sadly right now I’m still stuck on wishing the upper 90’s back.

Call me crazy but I love the heat and humidity!

But that's what happens with fall and here it comes.  Anyway, with the cooler temps and walking on my treadmill instead of outside comes my need to keep busy so it seemed like no better time to revive the old blog here!

I have a pretty decent number of topics on belay right now so I should be posting more regularly, every other or every third day give or take. I can’t promise things will go back to daily again but since all of us have seriously busy lives these days I somehow imagine that will not be a tragedy.

So what’s coming up? Why, thanks for asking!

In a week or so I’m going to be running a giveaway so be sure to check for that. A couple cool reviews of awesome companies who are doing their best to make a difference, a festival review, some product reviews, maybe a few travel tips for foliage peepers to keep their footprint lower and a blogaversary post are also in the works!

Thanks for sticking it out over the posting drought this summer GLR-ers, looking forward to getting back to the fun this fall!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Over and Under Two Vehicles Travel the Same Road at the Same Time

In China, plans are underway to begin construction of 115 miles of track that will house a huge bus, called the 3D Express Coach, that drives above the cars on the road. It will carry up to 1400 people and take only a year to complete. With construction slated to begin at the end of this year, commuters in Beijing will soon be traveling along in eco style -- the buses will be powered by both electricity and solar power.


The widening and increased height of the busses means that roads don’t need to be widened which means there will be no congestion from construction.

There are quite a few projections of what the busses will look like here.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Grownup Noise Kicks Off their Tour Tonight in Cambridge

One of our long time fans and supporters of Green Leaf Reviewer, The Grownup Noise, is once again hitting the road and they open their summer 2010, coast to coast tour right here in their hometown tonight.

It’s their fifth tour but this year things will be a little different. As many of you who have been reading for a while know the band has toured for the past couple summers in a van who’s diesel engine was converted to also run on veggie oil. The band had a love-hate relationship with the van, which they lovingly named Lorian, but after far too many incidents last summer, she was officially retired.

But does that make these guys & gals any less responsible when it comes to touring? Heck no!

This year the tour, aptly dubbed the “Mom & Pop Tour”, will only feature three band members, who will all take turns bouncing around between instruments. It sounds pretty rad and high energy to me! The energy on stage unfortunately will not propel them all the way to California of course so they made some adjustments.

The band will be touring in a smaller mini van, and they even went out to procure smaller amps in order to reduce what is being toted around in it while on the road. They won’t be dragging a trailer behind them so, as they put it, “the band [is] focusing more on reducing rather than recycling” this time out.

They certainly care about their overall impact and do whatever they can to ensure their footprint remains as small as possible while they bring their fun grooves to the ears of eager fans. Yea for that!

They are touring the release of their new EP Shall We? and it really should be a rocking good time. I fully intend to get out to The Lizard Lounge on Mass Ave in Cambridge tonight to see the first show of the tour and highly encourage all of you to find the date closest to your town so you too can catch their act.

July 31st Boston, Ma. Lizard Lounge
August 3rd Montpelier, Vt. Langdon St. Cafe
August 8th Dayton, Ohio South Park Tavern
August 9th Chicago, Illinois Elbo Room
August 11th Minneapolis, MN Acadia Café
August 13th Denver, CO Walnut Room
August 15h Albuquerque, NM Atomic Cantina
August 16th Tucson, AZ Skybar
August 17th Los Angeles, CA Room 5
August 19th San Diego Winston’s
August 20th San Fran, CA Kimo’s Penthouse
August 21st Sacramento, CA The Naked Lounge
August 25th Portland, OR Ella St. Social Club
August 26th Seattle, WA Comet Tavern
August 27th Spokane, WA TBD

To read about the band’s former adventures with Lorian or their continued efforts to spread the word on veggie oil you can click here.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I Just Don’t Have It Right Now…

But I promise to get it back soon!

You’ve probably noticed that this is the first time I’ve posted in a few weeks and I truly apologize for that. It has really been one of those summers that I can not force myself to be inside any longer than I have to be!

All 3 H’s have been in full effect in Boston for the past 4-6 weeks -- Hazy, Hot & Humid -- and I have to confess, I am loving it! Summer is definitely my favorite season, with warm temps that mean no socks, plenty of time at the beach, the smell of salt air, road trips with Matt and wide open windows, it really is tough to beat.

The problem of course is that makes it very tough to concentrate. Then throw in: painting jobs for Chucka Stone Designs, completing the edits and beginning to query agents for my full length manuscript, some new sewing inspirations for my Etsy shop, writing an article every couple weeks for the EcoEtsy team blog, and the chance to see a good friend who just moved back into town.

All of the above equal time of course, so the thing that had to fall off the back end was writing posts for Green Leaf Reviewer. Sorry loyal readers but if there is one thing I know about all of you its that not only do you understand but most of you are out enjoying your warmest season too! That is awesome and I truly hope you all have a super fun time doing whatever it is you’re doing. Feel free to leave a comment and let me know in fact!

I do promise not to take the rest of the summer off, there will be posts here and there when something amazing, cool, awesome, fun, funky or loveable passes across my desk, but it will definitely be sporadic until September.

Here are some of the amazing things I’ve been lucky enough to experience this summer.

Enjoy the few weeks we have left and I’ll see you all on the flip side!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Let’s Give Taza a Hand, Simply by Eating Chocolate

This morning I received an email from one of our very favorite Greenies, Taza Chocolate. Although the area I'm in has felt more like Palm Springs lately than New England in the past month, last weekend we had an inordinate amount of rainfall in a very short period of time.

The flash downpours caused, you guessed it, lots of flash flooding. It turns out that Taza Chocolate was one of the many businesses effected by this strong batch of storms. And in their brand new facility that hadn’t even yet opened.

The following is the email and photos sent to me and many others who might be able to help out just by buying some chocolate or merchandise. I’m calling on the GLR community to give a hand if you can, let’s keep Taza going strong as they literally rebuild. Oh and by the way, I love their chocolate so if you do buy some and don’t like it, shoot me an email and I’ll send you my address :-)

"Taza Floods - Please Support Us As We Recover

Today, Taza is reaching out to our wonderful, loyal fans and asking for support. If you live in the Boston area, you saw how much water dropped suddenly from the sky last Saturday afternoon. Traffic ground to a halt as streets flooded out just minutes after the rain began.

Around 3pm, Taza's Director of Manufacturing (i.e. Head Chocolate Making Guy), Mike Schechter, thought maybe he'd pop by our newly renovated, first floor chocolate factory for a quick look, just to be safe. He arrived to find Windsor St. more river than roadway. And once inside, he found water pouring unchecked into the factory via a breach in our building's front exterior wall, and bubbling up from the drains in the floor. The new chocolate production facility, where we'd turned out our first batch of Mexicanos just last week, was already sitting in an unwelcome lake several inches deep, and the water was still coming. He grabbed his phone and started dialing, letting any Taza employee he could reach know that it might be a good idea for them to come by the factory, pronto.

Now, 72 hours later, we're taking stock. A dedicated, non-stop weekend bail-out, mop-up, and salvage effort by many of our amazing Taza staffers, on their own time, has cleared the way for recovery and rebuilding to start. We've hacked out the bottom 16 inches of drywall on every wall in our entire facility, carted ruined office cubicles to the dumpsters, and relocated our laptops to apartments and cafes until we have a functional workspace. Our chocolate production capacity will be shut down for at least a week, and cash flow will be a big challenge as we find a way to finance the repair of the facility we just made a major investment in upgrading. The silver lining? Our stockpile of bars, Mexicanos, and other Taza goodies is still stored on the second floor of our building, and remains safe, dry, and delicious.

Taza has always been a scrappy crew of chocolate fanatics, and we're determined to get back to the important business of making excellent chocolate as soon as possible. You have all shown us terrific support and love over our first 3 ½ years in business, and we ask for your support now - if you can, buy some Taza Chocolate (we also think you'd look great in a Taza t-shirt). Shop our online store, come out and see us at the farmers' markets, or find us at your local retailer. With great customers like you, we're going to keep on making the Taza Chocolate you love, come hell or high water.

Watch video from Channel 5 about Taza and the Somerville flash floods here.”

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tradeoff Question

This week I am working at a client’s home doing their ceiling painting. Most of you know I run my own business in the realm of home decoration and I wanted to take on this project as it helps me to spread the word abut how even in my profession we can be more environmentally responsible.

I wash only once (at the end of the day), wrap rollers and brushes when possible (for use again later), retain as many materials as possible and scrape as much paint as I can out of the tools before washing them. Not to mention I use the lowest available VOC / odor, water based, latex paints on the market and cloth drop cloths instead of paper.

Moving a drop around during the day may take a few extra minutes than taping down some paper to the floor but I’d rather be the painter who works an extra day than the one who leaves a job with a whole bag full of waste!

But I feel like there is an issue with the way I get there.

Many people have heard about the traffic nightmare that is Boston during rush hour. To give an example, I live just three or so miles north of the city and in the morning it would take me roughly 35 minutes to get through downtown. Yeah, it can be bad.

The job I am doing is on the other side of the city, south, in Dedham. There are two main ways for me to get there: straight through the city on 93 south or a bit around the way west then south from route 2 to 128 south. Mapquest indicates that going 93 or 128 is only 26 miles.

But going 93 means I sit in traffic inside a tunnel while 128 is a wide open road.

Now mapquest also has another route that would get me there in 15 miles. Judging by the routes I would take, at that hour of the day I estimate my commute would be in the neighborhood of 1-1/2 hours.

So what is the best solution when the shortest miles means longer time in the car?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

And the Winner of the Earth Divas Bag Is…

Judi! Hooray!

I only had 6 entries this time around so it was easier to write them out on slips of paper, shuffle ‘em around then pick and lucky number 5 was the winner! (Because there were seven comments but 2 & 3 were both the same person I omitted # 3)

So anyway Judi if you’d like I can certainly let them know to send you this bag that was your favorite…

Or if there is something different you’d like to try in their Fair Trade, hemp fiber bag line by all means let me know.

Congratulations and no need to get me your address, I think I better know where you live by now, mum! ♥love♥

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Publishers Going Green

I recently read an article that indicated of the 4 billion books published every year, only 5 - 10% of them make use of recycled materials. As a Greenie and a writer, it really got me thinking.

Most of you know that I wrote my first novel last fall. This book is about two days away from being able to be published (IMO mind you, no professional Editor has laid eyes on it just yet) but I’m wondering how and where I should market my piece of fiction.

Two years ago, one of our favorite musicians here at GLR, Jason Mraz, put out a photography book titled “A Thousand Things”. When it came out I thought it was super innovative for its use of sustainable materials in the paper (Forest Stewardship Council [FSC] certified wood free, chlorine free) and ink (soy based). Even the cover is wood free and, upon Jason’s request, all waste during the printing process was recycled.

Not bad! But how about for those of us who aren’t already a celebrity? When we put out our first book can we be as demanding of how it is printed or do we have to suffer as a tree is chopped down and deal with it because we don’t have any influence in the process?

Well that question is mostly rhetorical when it comes to me because if there is anything you all know about me by now it’s that I never rest quietly on what someone else says I should do! ‘Question, challenge then understand’ should be my motto in life.

So then the first question of course is: where do I begin?

Many publishers are thinking of new approaches to the questions of sustainability. For example, they may use standard tree pulp for their paper but it comes from sources deemed FSC certified*.

There is also a growing trend to offset their paper footprint in ways around the office. Chronicle Books has an Environmental Policy link right on their homepage where they talk about the Green initiatives in their office construction three years ago, as well as their support of various social and humanitarian charities through their staff’s volunteerism.

Another new movement cropping up among many publishers is the elimination of paper from their media. There are so many ways to publish electronically these days -- blogs, websites, pdf documents, even twitter! -- it is almost not necessary to cut down a tree just to put an author’s perspective out into the world.

Other publishers will plant a tree for each book printed, such as Eco-Libris. Because many of the publishers that partner with Eco-Libris print on demand (only print copies when an order is placed), it reduces the advance of materials in order to satisfy orders.

For me it will be easy enough to cross reference the publishers I find listed online with my Writer’s Market 2010 guide to publishers that I have in paperback form in my office already.

Since there is an environmental angle in my manuscript, it might not be a bad idea to start with those folks. After all, we will be on the same page when it comes to the printing process. No pun intended.

*read more about certification and sustainable forestry on the FSC.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Eco Fashion Friday Feature: Windy Hill Fibers Has A New Fan…Me!

Last Friday was my birthday and this year I didn’t want there to be any confusion about what I wanted from Matt so I just sent him the link. I had a feeling I would end up getting this gorgeous dress from Windy Hill Fibers!

Made from 100% organic cotton, this hand made frock (the Lily Sash Dress) is easily going to become the most worn item in my wardrobe this summer. With temperatures soaring into the very muggy 80’s & 90’s almost every day I have been on the hunt for comfortable, easy dresses that fit and look good.

Christine Vivian is the owner and designer behind Windy Hill Fibers, her Etsy shop was opened in September of 2007 and with a 100% positive rating that’s three solid years of good business! It is easy to see why. 

The dress is impeccably created, the stitching is straight and even and there are no gaps when the garment is on. In fact she didn’t just create a small/medium/large dress but took my measurements for the best fit possible.

I know Matt only put in the order a week or so before my birthday and that was likely a mad-dash rush for Christine but she was such a trooper to get it done so quickly without sacrificing on her quality!  (Thank you!!)

With prices that range from $50 - $135, each piece is moderate to high but I can not stress enough how much of a staple this dress is going to be for me. I’ll probably get Matt’s money’s worth by mid July!

Complete with darts at the bust line and a super generous length of sash to wrap around, or tie in front/back, the dress cinches itself to the perfect fit. She even used the cut off fabric as the bow for the gingerly wrapped package.

On top of everything else that makes Windy Hill Fibers so awesome, the shop is also a part of my team -- Eco Etsy!

Because Christine has such a strong eye on the planet through her use of organic materials and support of a fantastic Green team I am granting Windy Hill Fibers a three and a Half Leaf Rating!

Thanks so much for caring Christine, I hope to chat with you at a team EcoEtsy event one of these days! ♥love♥

Thursday, July 1, 2010

My Life In Stages Blog Giveaway Winner Was Me (woo hoo!!)

My good bloggy friend Anna (Almost Precious on Etsy, My Two Cents at blogger) alerted her readers a while back to another bloggy friend, My Life In Stages, having a giveaway so I figured what the heck.

I almost never enter giveaways. Not only because I tend to not win most of the time but I feel like there are probably other people who could benefit far greater from the winning item than little old me. But this one was different.

I mean, do you see those beautiful cups and saucers in that picture up there? How could I resist?

Well I couldn’t, and not only was I the uber lucky winner but I found an item that I completely heart in Tracie’s shop too!

Let me first back up for a second and explain why I even entered in the first place. Matt and I live in a rental as most of you know. We are not allowed to paint the walls so we have to adopt our color infusions in other ways.

A while back I decided to refinish our second (or forth, not sure) hand kitchen furniture with a very modern feel -- espresso brown for the chairs and deep navy for the table. I wanted the kitchen to feel like it came out of a Pottery Barn catalog but with refinished older pieces and far less expensively.

The paint treatment was just the start of course as our dishes (that are close to 10 years old, chipped, broken and worn) were also going to be replaced. I wasn’t sure what we would do but I knew I was going to scour shops like Goodwill and Salvation Army for previously loved but not broken items.

Then like a beacon of awesomeness, there were the pictures on Tracie’s blog and I was in love! Strangely enough she drew my corresponding commenter number and wouldn’t ya know, it was my lucky number 11! Must have been fate.

I sadly have not yet had a chance to put these out (because my table is still not fully cured yet due to the massive humidity & I haven’t finished making the placemats from the fabric as seen in the photo) but I didn’t want to wait ay longer to tell everyone about the wonderful My Life In Stages blog or how grateful and appreciative I am that I was the winner of her first ever giveaway.

Thanks Tracie, I can’t wait to start sipping my evening tea from these very mugs!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

We ♥ Dave Matthews Band!

And if we don’t already, we should! This band is fully committed to doing what they can in an effort to be eco friendly. This morning I received my DMB newsletter in email and about half way down, here is, word for word, what I read:


Dave Matthews Band has teamed up with Brita to reduce bottled water waste on tour this summer. Going to a show? Refill with a compostable cup at a Brita Hydration Hub-for free! Head over to the Brita booth, take the FilterForGood pledge, and play a game for a chance to win an exclusive DMB reusable bottle!

Thank you to all our fans for doing your part to reduce waste on tour.

After just 14 shows,

• Fans refilling at the Brita Hydration Hubs have kept more than 14,000 plastic water bottles out of landfills
• More than 2,000 fans have taken the FilterForGood pledge

Check out Brita FilterForGood on Facebook for tour updates and a chance to win tickets all summer long!"


I have written about the Filter for Good campaign in the past as I was fortunate enough to have been sent a filtered pitcher and accompanying Nalgene bottle back in the early part of this year.

In our house we never use anything but a filter pitcher and not only did I make use of the Nalgene every day, I just went out and purchased a new one recently that is more convenient for leaving in the car.

So thanks DMB for not only being on the same planetary page as most of us, but for spreading the word about living an even Greener lifestyle!

For those going to a show this summer, be sure to stop by the Brita booth and take the pledge.  If you can't make it to a show click on the pledge link at the top of the post and then come on back over to let us know you took the pledge.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Earth Divas Fair Trade and Natural Fiber Bags

Good morning all! I’ve been a busy little bee lately with work and finishing up my book but now that things have settled down some I can get right back to doing reviews and I couldn’t think of a better place to start than Earth Divas!

I was contacted by these folks directly and sent a super fun, practical, functional and great looking tan bag, hand made by a talented artist in Nepal, from rapidly renewable hemp fiber.

With two very generous outside pockets in chocolate brown and three inside pockets (in addition to the main bag) I will certainly not run out of convenient spaces for my smaller items. With magnetized snaps or zippers the pockets will keep everything safely tucked away. And the bag is sturdy too.

The casual messenger style is great for me because I always have a couple checkbooks and my day planner with me so the roominess is great too.

The company is a wonderful model -- they provide free training and pay their artists direct under fair trade practices. With a 10% donation that goes right back to the artists Earth Divas claims to pay 10-25% higher than the standard labor rate, 30% above the local wage rate. At the end of the year all profits are paid direct to the artists and the owner of the company, Ed Edmundson, doesn’t even draw a salary!

The price is not outrageous for such a well made, socially responsible item either. The bag I was sent retails at $29.99 but their catalog is chock full of items that run under $20 too. The range in price does not diminish the quality or functionality however.

With so many positives -- natural/renewable fiber, social responsibility, training and encouragement of the artists, sustainability, functionality and durability -- and such a wonderful company model overall I am granting Earth Divas a Four and a Half Leaf Rating!

Now for the best part…for those of you who stuck around to read the whole review, Green Leaf Reviewer, in conjunction with Earth Divas, is doing a giveaway of one of these awesome hand made bags! That’s right and you could win it!

Here are the rules:

Get on over to the Earth Divas website.
Find your favorite bag.
Come back to GLR and leave a comment about which bag is your favorite.
Tell me why you think hemp is a smart choice for the planet.

I will be picking the winner on Tuesday July 6 at 6:00PM EST so get your votes in now and you might just find a super cute, well made, socially responsible bag on your front doorstep!

Thanks Earth Divas for helping to make this planet a better place ♥love♥

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ice and Dice Casino Night Fundraiser for Boston Bruins Foundation

Last night my aunt, her friend, and myself, all headed to Kowloon Chinese restaurant in Saugus, Massachusetts for the third annual Ice & Dice Casino Night. Tickets were only $30 and I knew the proceeds were going to a super worthy cause -- The Boston Bruins Foundation.

The Foundation is a not for profit that provides grant monies in the realms of athletic, academic, health and community outreach to various area children’s charities. For example, they have donated to The Children’s Room, a Youth All-City Choir, The Mayors Cup Roller Hockey program and Boston Partners in Education among many, many others.

Last night there were casino tables with all kinds of games but we stuck to a game with dice (it had an hourglass type cage with dice inside it that spun and you bet on numbers) and blackjack (my personal favorite). Bruins alumni, friends, family and many others were present to celebrate the evening for a great cause.

The night began with everyone receiving $1000 worth of chips and then at the end of the night the three people with the most chips won some pretty cool prizes, like a stick signed by the whole team. Then on the way out the ladies (and some of the men grabbed for their own ladies!) were rewarded by some nail polish (5 bottles!) donated by ProStrong.

Because gambling for cash is not legal in Massachusetts all the money was fun money but in order to raise even more, there were a few items in a live auction as well as a slew of silent auction items. Our friend even won one of the bids!

All proceeds from last night’s festivities went to further support the Foundation's Pan-Mass Challenge Bike Team's 2010 donation to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. I don’t know the final tally but at one point our emcee for the evening, Bob Sweeney, Bruins alum and the Foundation’s Director of Development, told us they were in the neighborhood of $50,000 in total. Outstanding!

It was a really fun night and although I’m not much into gambling, the “fun money” atmosphere kept the mood light. Thinking about where the proceeds would be donated made me so happy to have been a part of it all. Thanks Bruins for your continued support of the youth of our fine city of Boston and thanks for a fantastic evening!

Interested in donating, volunteering or just finding out more about the Foundation? Head on over to their Donations Page for more information.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lost Generation?

One of my teammates over at EcoEtsy, Martina of Nature’s Art Melbourne, shared the link to this video and since it was short I checked it out. I have now watched it three times and every time it makes me tear up. Awesome!

There is hope out there people but we all have to come together as one to reverse the ways that aren’t working in order to get to the good stuff.

No matter what generation you are part of we are all humans. Hold the things you love close, push out the icky stuff and live life with purpose! Hug each other, take time to say I love you, relax, eat, drink and be merry!

Enjoy this video (make sure you watch it to get the full effect).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Clean Energy Needs to Be a National Priority

The BP Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is turning into the worst man made disaster in the history of, well, history. People’s jobs are impacted, lives have been turned upside down and visions of success have dwindled away. But there is something we can do to at least mitigate the blow, to turn it back around.

We can all stand together as a nation and demand that changes are made.

We can all stand together as a nation and say ‘I want to reduce my dependence on fossil fuels.’

We can all stand together as a nation and call for clean-energy!

A few days ago I added my name in support of a clean-energy future by signing a petition that is backed by the group Organizing for America, a project of the Democratic National Committee. Since signing the petition I have received a few emails requesting that I forward the link on.

This morning, following right behind President Obama’s Oval Office Address last night*, the committee sent another request to share the link to sign in support of clean-energy and I decided to do a little more digging.

I responded to the Director of Organizing for America, Mitch Stewart and simply inquired -- what are you going to do with all of these names?  I haven't yet heard back but will certainly keep everyone apprised of what he has to say as soon as they get in touch.

With regard to our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, and the impact the depletion of this finite resource will have on our nation (as well as nations around the globe), The President said last night:

We cannot consign our children to this future. The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean-energy future is now. Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash America’s innovation and seize control of our own destiny.

Yeah baby!

So because I firmly, unequivocally, and without doubt believe in every single word of the paragraph above, I am including the link to the petition for Organizing for America. If they can get even 1,000 more signatures to propel this initiative in front of the President and help ensure new jobs are created while we make use of the rapidly renewable natural resources our planet has to offer as our primary energy sources, then I say more power to them!

Now I know this will meet with negative comments from many of the ‘hippie’ generation -- that they attempted to do this too and got nowhere, that gas was a commodity in the 1970’s -- and they are absolutely correct. And 30 some odd years after they started the fight it sounds like a pretty great idea to finally finish it.

Let’s be the generation that prevails, the one which elicits positive change.

Let’s take what our former generations started and finally bring it to fruition.

Clean-energy is not a pipe dream. It can happen, and on the heels of this Gulf Coast disaster there is no more apparent time than right now to support it. Fully.

If you believe in clean-energy and all it can provide for our country please sign the petition today by visiting:

Organizing for America

*If you missed the President’s address from last night you can read the full text here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Arlington, Massachusetts Named Green Community

The Governor has picked my hometown, Arlington, Massachusetts, as one of the thirty five towns in the state listed as Green communities. These towns are striving to make a difference in the environment and although I don’t live there anymore, it is still a proud moment to read about Arlington’s achievement. Way to go!

Following is part of the article from from May 26.

According to the Governor’s office, Arlington qualified as a Green Community by meeting five clean energy benchmarks, including the adoption of the stretch energy code which Town Meeting approved on April 28. The other four benchmarks met by the town are:

• Adopting local zoning bylaw or ordinance that allows "as-of-right-siting" of renewable energy projects;
• Adopting an expedited permitting process related to the as-of-right facilities;
• Establishing a municipal energy use baseline and a program designed to reduce use by 20 percent within five years;
• Purchasing only fuel-efficient vehicles for municipal use, whenever such vehicles are commercially available and practicable.

Arlington is in good company with towns such as Cambridge, Northampton, Athol, Mashpee, Lexington, Acton, Springfield, Worcester, Salem, Pittsfield and, oh yeah, my current town of Medford (hooray!) making the cut, there is a nice balance of small town and larger city and literally towns stretching throughout every corner of the state.

So, high five Arlington, as well as the 34 other Green towns, for making the positive initiatives that helped to provide a Big Belly solar trash compactor and potential grant funding for your towns. Go Green!

Note: The photo above was taken by me in April 2008 in Arlington center. I loved the way the bikes and recycle / trash bins looked together and thought it was a nice touch to make the bins so much more decorative than average.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ready to Trade on Swaptree

A NOTE FROM JENN: Good morning Greenies! It is Monday morning now and I just wanted to say that things with Swaptree were all taken care of yesterday. The confirmation email, though indicating it was sent at 6:00 AM, did finally arrive sometime after noon. I was able to confirm and start listing items for trade.

I wanted to simply test the service for the moment so I listed just one book in my ‘have it’. Sadly no one on the service had this item in their ‘want it’ list so I am unable to receive any trades just yet but I’m sure that will come soon! I also added a book to my own ‘want it’ list and will be excited when I can have it arrive at my door!

Customer service was quick to return my email as well, although they didn’t have to do much considering it worked itself out. Because the site is free (no special envelopes to buy and no money is exchanged) and the only expense is when shipping an item (can we say Media Mail?) this allows Swaptree to suggest all kinds of trades -- movies for CDs, books for video games, etc. -- not just a one for one which is nice.

So I am amending my Leaf Rating on this cool company and concept to a Four Leaf Rating!

Everyone has extra stuff lying around -- DVDs, books, video games and CDs -- the thing you used a million times, read and won’t read again or just plain didn’t enjoy. But what is a person to do with all this brand new merchandise? Trade it on Swaptree!

The company makes it super simple to exchange your merchandise, in fact it is only a three step process! First, register. This will only take a few seconds and the information is minimal (you can also connect with friends on Facebook). Next, add items you want and list items you have to trade. Finally, all that is left to do is swap!

Now, I am a little bummed that I can’t share the whole experience with you because I never received the confirmation email (it is required to click on to activate the account) despite repeated attempts, a change in emails and contacting the customer support folks.

This is not to say it doesn’t work for some however so don’t be alarmed! My friend Bridgete was the one who suggested I become a swapper as she was able to sign up and suggest the site to me. It is legitimate and there are some cool items to be had, I just can’t get to them yet.

Hopefully the good folks at Swaptree will get me a return email so I can give a proper rating based on the entire experience, including being able to swap! But for now, based solely on the concept of it as well as my sign up experience, I have to give Swaptree a Two and a Half Leaf Rating.

I hope to hear from you Swaptree, I am looking forward to bumping your leaves up as soon as I can get active with this very cool concept! ♥love♥

Monday, June 7, 2010

Recycling Is Not A Choice!

Yesterday I went to a baby shower at a very good friend’s home. We had a fantastic time laughing and joking around and I saw some old friends that I haven’t caught up with in way too many years to count. It was a great day full of food and festivity.

At the end of the day, as the counters started to clear, one of the girls made the announcement that our friend “wasn’t planning to deal with recycling for the shower.” My jaw hit the ground as I truly understand just how easy it is to toss water bottles, cups and flatware into the sink to be rinsed.

I grabbed my own water bottle and held onto it as I said “I’ll just take mine home to recycle then.”

Yes it likely sounded very geeky to my friends that I didn’t just go with what everyone else was doing and throw it away, but everything inside of me was sad to think I would be adding to the plastic problem by throwing that bottle into the very full trash bag. So I held onto it and a new conversation began with my friend hosting the shower.

“Well I do recycle, it’s just that it’s downstairs in the garage and I didn’t want to have to deal with it today.”

Understandable, she is 7-1/2 months pregnant and probably worn out. Instead of making my friend do all that work, I reached into the trash & pulled out as many recyclables as I could find to bring them downstairs. And you know what? Two more of the gals came down with handfuls of plastic right behind me.

It’s taking a stand and making tiny steps that really count and I was happy to be the one to lead the charge yesterday! We love the environment here!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

How Long Would it Take to Weed Plastic Out of Your Life?

One of my friends in the Team EcoEtsy group, tanjasova, shared this CNN video about one woman’s quest to completely rid her life of plastic items. This is Jeanne Haegele’s story. She bakes her own bread, cooks her own yogurt and even mixes up her own toothpaste to avoid buying anything with plastic.

You will be surprised by where plastic is located, Jeanne certainly was when she started out on her journey to reduce plastic consumption.

Jeanne has certainly inspired me to open my mind to the potential benefits of reducing plastic consumption / use. How long do you think it would take you to completely eliminate plastic from your own home?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

CVS Earth Essentials Glass and Surface Cleaner

Many of you might remember the series I did back in September of 2009 on CVS Earth Essentials**. I was overall fairly impressed with the products so when I was in the market to pick up some glass cleaner recently, I was pleasantly surprised to discover this new addition in the CVS Earth Essentials line. I purchased a bottle and got right to using it on my most stubborn windows -- the car.

With a natural percentage of 99.95%, no phosphorus or bleach, and the first ingredient being “coconut based cleaning agents”, I felt more secure in its overall planetary impact. The bottle is recyclable and the ingredients are biodegradable, not to mention it smells nice too.

Of course the biggest question is -- does it work?

Those who are avid readers know that I have battled the fight with cigarettes for a few years now (just quit again, hopefully for good this time!) and it is one of the worst offenders on glass inside my car. No matter what we use to clean them (especially the windshield) nothing seems to cut the staining (yuk!) and it is always left streaky unless I do three passes. As you can imagine, streaks on the windshield at night can be somewhat precarious but I don’t have to deal with that anymore!

The Earth Essentials cleaner not only cut through the film on the first pass but the window was left totally streak free! I was very impressed with the performance as well as the ability to use less of the product but still achieve the best possible results.

Because of the lessened impact, CVS’ environmental consciousness and the percentage of natural based ingredients in this cleaner I am granting it a Four Leaf Rating!

Thanks for your dedication to Greener alternatives CVS, it is this kind of change in thinking that fuels innovation for a Greener world! ♥love♥

**If you missed the original Earth Essentials series you can read about the different products I was graciously sent back then to test & review: Room Mist, Paper Products, and Sugarcane Dishware.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

ACA “Art for a Greener World” Tire Repair Mural

My hometown of Arlington, Massachusetts is where I take my drum lessons and housed in the same building (my old Junior High School mind you!) is the Arlington Center for the Arts. The ACA is a non-profit organization that has been serving artists in and around Arlington for over 22 years and one of their popular programs is the Vacation Arts Program (VAP).

Kids ages 4-14 are strongly encouraged to register for the Vacation Arts program (run several times per year during school vacation weeks/months) as they will complete some extremely exciting artwork, such as this piece below that I was able to snap a photo of the last time I was attending my drum lesson. The mural is entitled Tire Repair and was completed as a part of the “Art for a Greener World” themed February VAP. The premise of which was to consider the impact on the planet from driving our cars and ways we could reduce our dependence on those vehicles. Enjoy!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Trees for the Future Donates Trees All Over The Globe

I am an online survey taker. Years ago I came across a pretty cool company that sends me links for surveys in all manner of topics and I answer the ones I want in order to gain points. The points can be used to “purchase” items in their redemption center.

So far I have collected enough points to redeem for items like a Black and Decker cordless screwdriver, a sushi set (with chopsticks) made of bamboo for two, gift cards, CD’s, a coffee grinder and more. So when they emailed me recently to let me know that for just 200 points I could help donate 10 trees through the Trees for the Future program I was intrigued!

Like any good researcher I immediately set out to find out all I could about Trees for the Future. Turns out, the non-profit organization has been busy planting upwards of 50 million trees in countless countries all around the world since 1989. They have been instrumental in providing training in agro-forestry as well as seed distribution efforts in order to bring tree cover back to many rural communities which have lost this precious resource.

And all I had to do to help further the cause was click a button to redeem 200 points for the planting of ten trees! It felt great to be able to help in even this small way. You just never know where the opportunity to make a difference might be lurking!

To find out more about this very dedicated organization you can visit them on the web at:

Trees for the Future website
Treesftf on Facebook
Treesftf on You Tube

There are many ways to donate directly to Treesftf -- give a gift of a planted tree to someone else, give a cash donation, donate a car, truck or boat, volunteer, or organize a tree planting project of your own! I highly suggest getting over to their website and exploring the various options for how to help.

The planet, and all its oxygen breathing inhabitants, will thank you for it!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Matt Is One of the Best People I Know

He works in downtown Boston on a fairly popular street in the financial district for a mortgage company. That’s all wonderful but it isn’t what makes him great. Over the weekend he told us about a guy who is homeless that lives in the alley behind his building. Every day Matt shares one cigarette with the man and they chat about work, life and how he ended up in the situation he is in.

A former contractor, Karl has been living on the streets for a while now. After very tough times in the market forced him out of his union job, he was unable to maintain paying his bills and sadly ended up where he is.

According to Matt though this has not done anything to damage the guy’s disposition! He is always ready to share a laugh, a smile and directions with lost tourists.

Now Matt, is the kind of guy who just loves the world, will talk to anyone and it is like his mission in life to bring a smile to everyone else’s face! He and Karl struck up conversations months ago but I just found out about him this past weekend when Matt started pulling a whole bunch of clothes together.

I asked if he was getting rid of stuff for Goodwill and he said no, that he was putting a bag of stuff together because Karl had indicated that if Matt was ever planning to get rid of stuff he would be more than willing to take it off his hands, seeing as though they are about the same size.

Tears almost sprung to my eyes. How sweet is that! I have a sneaking suspicion he will do the same come the fall and donate a bunch of warmer clothes to him.

We were talking this morning about the spelling of Karl’s name (which sadly he’s not sure is a C or a K so I’m taking liberties here admittedly) and if Matt happened to know how long he had been homeless when something he said struck a chord.

“Its kind of sad that people like him are just ignored and feared.”

My response was to say that people are just people and that everyone has something in their life, whether they put it right out there or not is inconsequential, we all have issues it is just that some of us are better able to hide them from the rest of the world.

Then Matt said something that really hit home. He indicated that most people are just one bad month away from being in the exact same place as Karl. Sadly, it could not be truer. As a guy who works directly with the financial information of hundreds of people on a weekly basis, no one knows better than Matt how serious that statement really is.

Because we happen to be so fortunate in our lives that we have clothes that fit us, a roof to sleep under and shower to get clean in, it is important that we do whatever we can to help those who are not as well off. Matt started his mission with nothing more than a full bag of clean clothes he was tired of wearing and it has already made a difference in Karl’s life. He wants to do more good deeds and random acts of kindness now!

How can we join him?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico Can There Be a Silver Lining?

I have been avoiding writing this week as the controversy over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has reached breakneck speed. As most of you know I try to keep things on the positive over here at GLR but I feel it is my duty as an environmental semi-activist to finally throw my own change into the hat and use my forum to voice an opinion that has been gnawing at me for weeks.

There are major players in this disaster -- BP, Transocean, the United States government, Halliburton -- but in my opinion the real blame lies on all of us.

This is not to say that BP should not be 100% responsible for the best possible efforts at cleaning up this current mess, both financially and physically, they should be held accountable as it was their operations that sank the rig and caused the breach in the first place. What I mean is that we as a humanity allow ourselves to rely on oil for just about everything and while this spill is a tragedy of massive proportions, perhaps it will make all of us take a step back and reexamine the way we live our lives.

Since the figures became fuzzy over how many gallons were actually spilling out each day, not to mention the moment the first tar ball was reported to have touched land, I seriously started to evaluate my own habits.

The real honest truth of the matter is that just like most of the world I have been trained to rely on petroleum based products as part of my daily life.

I eat a yogurt every morning for breakfast. It comes in a plastic container.
I shower every day. Most of the products I use to cleanse myself come in plastic containers.
I get in my car and drive to work. Though the Corolla gets good gas mileage, it still uses gas.
I workout 3-5 times a week. On a treadmill, physio ball and with a jump rope created from plastic pieces.
I go to bed and set an alarm for the morning. On a clock made from plastic.

I type this blog post on plastic keys. At a plastic computer.

But…As much as it should depress me to realize that I live a double life of sorts, I can not let it bring me down. That is the very reason I have been hesitant to post anything about this man made disaster since it happened. I have had to try to find the thing that turns it all around. The thing that I can focus on that doesn’t make me feel like a hypocrite.

So this is my call to all of us as readers. Because there is really no way to clean up an oil spill I challenge and strongly urge all of us to stop and take stock of every single thing we do, evaluate the way we live our lives and take a stand to reduce our own personal petroleum consumption.

Can we bike to work one day instead of drive? Telecommute? Take public transportation? Buy the largest size yogurt instead of individually sized packages? Reduce our time online? Grow our own veggies (or buy local/organic) instead of buying trucked in brands? Walk outside instead of joining the gym? Buy previously loved items instead of new? Join Freecycle and other similar groups and participate in free trades? Read a book instead of watching television? Sign petitions asking your local government to take active steps toward reducing their own consumption? Join groups that actively participate in environmentally sound practices? Share links to stories with others who need to be educated? Repost this blog post?

I pledge to do as much of this as I can. I will certainly be spending less time online, walking to my local library for a book or two every week, enjoying nature instead of television and drastically reducing the time I spend in my car even though I work from home most of the time. I plan to grocery shop better and smarter and start frequenting my local Farmer’s Market the moment it opens. I will talk about this disaster as an informed individual because I will read the paper, the updated resources online and the links shared by friends. I will take active steps to change my habits and my life and subsequently the lives of millions of others in the process.

What do you pledge to do to reduce your dependency on petroleum based products so we can further eliminate the chances of another BP Gulf disaster in the future?

Photo courtesy of NASA.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Recycling: A Guide for the green Greenie

A great friend of mine recently moved back here from a less Green area of the country, and she expressed an interest in learning to recycle. I told her she came to the right place! It all started while we were visiting the other night; we had a couple beers and caught up. When she finished her beer she went for the trash can and I cringed.

“Don’t you guys love the environment?”
“Don’t you recycle here?”
“I have no clue.”

There was no blue bin with the trash cans or in her apartment so we created a separate paper bag for paper recycling and a trash bag for the rest and talked about how she could get herself a bin and schedule of pick up days/times.

As she put a plastic container into the recycle bag, long overdue to be tossed, I made mention of the number within the triangle & noted that since it was a #6 rigid plastic it was okay. She looked at me like a deer in headlights and said:

“Don’t they have a Recycling for Dummies book for those of us who have no idea what we’re doing but want to learn?”

I told her I’d write a blog post and send her the link! So here it is. I’ll be breaking down what recycling is, how to do it, what they do & don’t take and why you have to separate all of the different items.

Recycling -- What

First off, let’s start with the definition of recycling. The official definition from is:
To treat or process so as to make suitable for reuse.

Pretty simple right? The item that one places in a bin is sent off to a facility somewhere in happy recycling land and by the process of their choosing (melting, boiling, crushing, heating, cooling, grinding, etc.) the material is turned back to its original state of plastic, glass or metal particles or paper pulp so it can be turned back into another milk jug, salsa jar, can of corn or ream of printer paper.

So why can’t we just throw everything we use right into the bin and turn it all back into its original state?

There are two items that immediately come to mind that are not frequently recycled under conventional process -- corrugated cardboard and Styrofoam. So what are they and why can’t we toss them in?

Corrugated cardboard is more rigid and durable because it has accordion folded cardboard (corrugated) in between two layers of flat cardboard (linerboard). It looks almost like a honeycomb when viewed from the side and is commonly used for packing/shipping boxes. It is frequently turned away from facilities because of its toughness (blades for shredding can become damaged) and because an adhesive is used to bond the layers, too much could impact the functionality of the pulp that comes out. I recommend checking with your local facility to find out how they handle this material. Here’s a picture.

Styrofoam is another beast and for those of you who follow GLR you may remember Melissa wrote a very in depth article (The Lowdown on EPS) on it last October. That article explains the material in depth, provides phone numbers and a slew of additional info so I highly suggest reading it. In research I’ve done related to this material it seems the general response is that Styrofoam is too light to ship, too time consuming to compact and too toxic to burn. It doesn’t seem right to throw it away though so once again, contact your local facility to find out if they take it.

Recycling -- Where and When

Most communities in my state have curbside pick-up of recycling. In my town the schedule rotates every other week and we are given special town sanctioned blue bins to place our goods in but every town is different. Here in my state, The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) website is the best resource to find out where to acquire a bin, what day(s) of the week recyclables are picked up and how often.

It’s easy! Go to the website, scroll down and on the left click My Community. Find the town you wish to research in the list and click Go. Scroll down and under the “Get Facts” heading there will be a link to Recycling in my Community. Click that link and scroll down to find your town in the alphabetical list. Any and all information can be found there. Each country, state and town is different so check with your local government offices for the most accurate information.

Recycling -- Who, How and Why

Who? You! Everyone can recycle, even if there isn’t a curbside pick-up in your community it is easy to collect the various goods in a couple bins around the house and pop on over to the nearest facility to drop items off. Sometimes more items are accepted this way and it takes care of the build up on your own schedule. For example, now that we recycle just about everything in our house we end up having more recyclables than trash and for us it would be fine to flip recycle pick-up to weekly while trash could wait every two weeks instead!

The great thing for us in our town is that all our items can go in one bin together and the facilities sort through it but how you sort your items is something to check into. In our old apartment everything had to be separated so we had several bins -- one for paper (reusing paper grocery store bags are perfect for this!), one for plastic/metal/glass and one for all the other stuff (cell phones, batteries, etc which we had to drop off and only on certain days).

So why do I recycle…really? I do it because I feel that any item we create new should be able to function (NOT steaming in a landfill!), in some way or incarnation, for the same number of years that I will be walking around this planet. I feel that if I am going to be here, the least I can do is lessen the blow of the things I do and recycling is one of the most widely available, simplest things to do in order to keep my impact lowered.

Recycling -- The Numbers

While researching I came across this really cool website Green Living Tips and they have an excellent article (not to mention TONS of useful information) on recycling and what the numbers mean.

Not to mention they plant a tree for each new subscriber to the site so you bet I signed up for that too!

Every little bit helps so get out there, do some reading and start looking at the numbers. It may seem daunting or confusing at first but I can assure everyone that once you get used to recycling, you will never want to go back!