Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Squeeze, Cut, Invert, Shake...

Years ago, my father in-law signed me up for a daily email from Ideal Bite.  If you've never heard of Ideal Bite, you should.  They're all about little tips (or bites, as they call them) to help you go green.  Some are silly (April Fool's Day), but most are SO simple that at times I'd often be at a loss wondering why I hadn't thought of "it" in the first place.

One of my favorite bites is about getting 100% of what you pay for when it comes to toothpaste, lotions, shampoos... you name it.  Of course, I've always tipped my shampoos and conditioners upside down  to get every last drop (doesn't everyone??), but I had never thought about cutting open a container.  So simple!!

Take toothpaste for an example:  I can roll and squeeze to my hearts content, but one thing is for sure... there will always be toothpaste stuck inside the tube.  So every time the toothpaste has been rolled, smooshed and squeezed until no more comes out... I grab my scissors and cut it open.  The first time I did this, I was completely amazed at how much toothpaste is actually stuck inside-- enough to get all 3 of my kids teeth brushed about 6 more times  (that's approximately 18 squeezes).

So next time you think that you have a product that is completely gone... think again... and cut it open!  Trust me... you'll be surprised at what you find.

And if it is just a little bit... it's your little bit... remember you paid for it ;)

Update:  I'm a little very sad to say it, but Ideal Bite is on an indefinite hiatus.  They have joined the Disney Company's and now all of their amazing bites are no longer available through their site or daily emails.  :(

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rethinking Cleaning

It's officially been 2 weeks since the girl that cleans my house flaked on me (for the last time).  And since I've decided not to have her back... I've been doing a lot of cleaning.  Ugh.

But of course, with every change that I think is negative, there is a positive-- I might have to look a little harder to find it... but, I trust and know... it's there.  For me, cleaning my house myself means that it gets done exactly how I want it... it may take a lot longer... but it's my way.  Over the past couple of weeks, I've cleaned bathrooms, dusted, mopped floors, wiped down cabinets, and degreased my glass-top stove.

Years ago, I had a cabinet filled with all sorts of "cleaning supplies".  Bathroom cleaner (bleach based), toilet bowl cleaner, Bar Keepers Friend, Pledge, 409, something made specifically for hard wood floors, Pine-sol, Windex....etc, etc, etc.  Then when Chase was little I watched as he licked yogurt off of the table... I wondered if he had ingested some 409 along with it.  Then Claire had a thing with laying on the shower floor and licking the water... I wondered if "it still smelled like cleaner, wouldn't that mean the cleaner was still there??".  As I was cleaning and my eyes would water-- even with windows open-- I would think, "What if the smell of 'clean' really isn't as clean as I think it is??"  Moments like that are what made me RETHINK the products I use to clean my house.

Like I said, I had a cabinet full of products.  Of course, I didn't just throw them out-- that would've been a waste.  As I ran out of one product, I figured out what could be used in its place and replaced it with an environmentally friendly product.  First, I switched to products like Method and Mrs. Meyers.  Changing the products I used and how I clean took time... and was a little frustrating at times trying to figure out what really worked for me.  Now my cleaning repertoire consists of very simple products that I can rely on to clean my house.  All I really need is:
  • White vinegar-- diluted with water for floors (tile and wood), bathroom, cabinets, windows, baseboards/doors, all-purpose cleaner
  • Baking Soda-- bathroom, pots & pans, stove, etc
  • Borax-- toilets
  • CitraSolv-- a good smelling dilutable all-purpose cleaner 
  • Micro-fiber dust cloth-- used in place of Pledge
  • Plain towels (like cloth diapers... they don't leave fuzz): I use them in place of paper towels and even sponges
Need convincing and help Rethinking?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dust Bunnies

Everyone that knows me, knows that we have enough animals to be considered a small farm ;).  When I turned 17, Aaron gifted me a golden retriever (Buddy) for my birthday.  A year later, he surprised me with another (Belle) for Christmas.  Back then, the floors in our house were-- for the most part-- carpet.  Then we moved to Wilmington and the only places to find carpet were in the bedrooms.  Hardwood floors led way to what I jokingly referred to as "tumble weeds" of dog hair.  In order to curb this unsightly mess, I would have to Swiffer every day.  I say "Swiffer" because that was what I used to sweep my floors.  I'd go through boxes and boxes of those magical little sheets... covered in dog hair, dirt and sand... I would toss them one by one... ok, more like two by two into the trash.  Then we adopted/rescued a Great Dane.  More Swiffer sheets to be used.  More and more of those disposable sheets kept going into the trash.

Then one day... don't ask me why because I just don't know.... as I was "Swiffering", a thought popped into my head.  "What ever happened to those big mop things like they used in school??"  For some reason... I attribute it all to advertising... I believed that Swiffer was the only product that would truly get my floors dog hair, dust, and sand free.  I called my Mom to figure out what this mystery item was... turns out it's called a dust mop!!  That would be SO much more convenient than these little disposable sheets.  I started thinking about how wasteful the Swiffer was.... not only on the environmental aspect, but with the $$ aspect.  Essentially, I was throwing our money away to a landfill every time I swept.

SO... the next time I went to Target, I went to the cleaning aisle.  Amazed at what I found... they certainly don't put the Swiffer next to the reusable dust mops!!  I purchased a Scotch Brite dust mop and an extra microfiber cover, which I still use and reuse over and over again!!  That was somewhere around 7 years ago!!!

Do I ever miss the Swiffer?  Nope.  The dust mop works great and when I'm done sweeping... I shake it out and put it away... and when it's too filthy to pick up anything else... I throw it in the wash.  It's just as convenient as the Swiffer... maybe even more since I never have to think about buying another box of Swiffer sheets!!

Going to make the switch?  Before you toss out that Swiffer, check out how to make your Swiffer guilt free.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Package-Free Music

Before I start, let me just say that I struggled about whether or not I should even mention this... it seems like a no brainer.  But the more I thought about it... the more I'm reminded of friends and family that haven't made the switch.

It's been years since I've purchased a CD.  In fact, the last CD I purchased was Maroon 5's "It Won't Be Soon Before Long" back in 2006.  That's when I got my Ipod.  Now, I can't take credit for the idea.   I mainly never wanted an Ipod, because I'm not a techy person and I really liked CDs... I especially loved reading those booklets with all the lyrics as I listened to my newest purchases.  Also, when I put my CDs in my disc changer I would happily recycle the cases... or so I thought (most CD cases are made from PVC, which really isn't recyclable).

My husband had an Ipod long before he could convince me that they were super cool, more convenient, and more eco-friendly than purchasing CDs.  Eco-friendly... he knows is something that he can throw out and I pay attention.  I started thinking about it and came to the conclusion that he was right.  Buying music through Itunes (or any other digital download site) requires:

  • No production to make a CD
  • No cross country delivery to a store
  • No packaging: no cellophane wrapping a PVC case
  • No drive to a store
I'm sure there are lots of other benefits (... like bonus tracks), but those are the ones that stuck out to me :)  Basically, by choosing digital downloads over CDs, we save resources and so much more.

So....this morning, I woke up with a clear plan in mind.  I got the kids dressed, fed and once they were off to school... I opened Itunes, clicked "store" and downloaded John Mayer's newest release, "Battle Studies" while barefoot and in my PJs.

I LOVE my Ipod.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Plastic Produce

This afternoon, the kids and I made a run into the grocery store. I hardly ever go to the grocery store on the weekend, but when I do... I'm always amazed at the difference of the weekend shoppers compared to those during the week.  The difference isn't in what they look like or if they're single or a family.  The difference is that before I had even gotten the kids out of the car, I saw 4 people pushing carts full of groceries packed in plastic bags.  And as we walked in, that's all I saw... plastic, plastic and more plastic.  During the week, it's a rarity to see a plastic bag.   I'm wondering why??

I started thinking about how in the spring, the grocery store I frequent decided to get rid of paper bags and only offer plastic bags.  Our area was a test market-- brilliant idea for a coastal community! (hardly)  Then I remembered how the baggers used to constantly ask me if I would like my meat in a plastic bag and how I would have to explain to them that my bags are washable... no plastic.

I suppose that's all a tangent... trust me, it's going somewhere.

So, today... we went to the store for lots of produce.  Back in the day, I was a bagaholic.  If produce didn't come in a bag-- besides bananas-- then I put it in one.  As time went on and I became more EnvironMental, I lessened my produce bag use.  I'd only use bags for "roll around" produce like apples, potatoes, onions, citrus fruits or loose produce like green beans.  I let the asparagus and the head lettuces rest in my cart free from plastic bags.  I felt great about using less and besides I was also reusing my plastic produce bags.  THEN... one day... on the way to the grocery store... windows down... a plastic produce bag-- that I had tucked away in my reusable shopping bags-- found it's way to the wind.  Before I could roll up the windows... it filled with air and flew out the window.  It may sound silly, but in that moment my heart sank.  "How could I be so careless?  So irresponsible??".  My kids even chimed in.
When I got to the grocery store, I didn't use one plastic produce bag and to this day still don't... no matter what I'm buying.

Putting fruit and vegies in my cart sans plastic bags is by far one of the easiest changes I've ever made.  I love looking in my cart and instead of seeing a bunch of produce through plastic, I see the colors of Romaine next to red peppers, lemons, asparagus, onions... personally, I think it's rather beautiful.  Don't believe me?  Try it next time.

Here are some helpful tips to get you started:

  • One thing that I constantly told myself is that, "It's ok for fruits and vegies to touch each other. An apple can touch a banana can touch a potato... and so forth." 
  • Every time I buy oranges or any other product that comes in a mesh bag... I keep the bag.  I cut off the bar code and reuse it.  They come in especially handy for roll around and loose produce.
  • Only getting a couple onions, apples, potatoes and don't have a bag?  Just put them in the cart.  Like I said, it looks rather beautiful seeing all the vegie and fruit colors together. If you're afraid of food touching the cart?  Don't be.  Chances are you're going to wash the produce anyway :)
  • Use one of your reusable bags to put lots of produce in (especially corn-on-the-cob).  Makes it more convenient for the cashier to pull up one bag of something instead of wrangling them from the cart ;)
  • If you're the type that likes to buy stuff... check out 
Happy shopping!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

90 Years

That's how long it takes to grow a box of Kleenex Brand tissues.

Back in 2005, my father in-law started talking to me about buying recycled paper products.  Well.... to be was toilet paper.  From him, I started learning about where paper products come from and how they are made.  Needless to say, I was shocked when I found out that single use products (like facial tissues and toilet paper) are made from 100% virgin tree fibers that come from 70-180 year old trees.  Old growth forests are being cut down and eco-systems are being destroyed so that we can wipe and blow.

One of the first major changes that I made-- on the road to environmental responsibility-- was to make the decision to stop buying any products from Kimberly-Clark including Kleenex, Scott, Viva, and Cottenelle.  Why Kimberly-Clark?  I started there first because they are the largest manufacturer of tissue products worldwide.  It took me a couple of months, as I transitioned from buying virgin-fiber tissue products to 100% recycled tissue products.  Now, I'm not going to sit here and lie and say it was easy... it was a little difficult.  The soft, lotion enhanced tissues were a thing of the past.  And every time I got a cold and had a sore red nose, I questioned my commitment to the environment.  In those moments I would tell myself, "I'd have a sore red nose no matter what."  Then I'd put on a little lotion or skin protector (similar to Chapstick). Now, it doesn't even faze me.

Most recently, I've seen new "green washing" slogans.  How about that claim: "For every tree we cut down, we plant 3!"  Sure it's a great slogan and has the ability to make you feel all warm and fuzzy.  But the truth of the matter is that chances are only 1 of 3 will survive and planting 3 trees doesn't replace ecosystems.

Here's something to think about:  If every household in the US replaced JUST one roll of 500 sheet virgin-fiber toilet paper with 100% recycled ones, we could save:

  • 423,900 trees
  • 1.0 million cubic feet of landfill space, equal to 1,600 full garbage trucks
  • 153 million gallons of water, a year's supply for 1,200 families of 4
So when you head to the store (sometimes it's best to call ahead)... seek out 100% recycled products.  Can't find what you're looking for?  Talk to a manager, write a comment and voice your opinion... let your preference be known :)

OR keep it simple and order online.  We use 

Read a little more and try some of these tips :) 

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

3 Easy Words

The final push to start this blog came from my friend Tracy.  I got a message from her that read,

"Last night Mike said, NO THANK YOU! I talk and he never listens, you must put it into simpler terms for him!!" 

It took me a moment to get what she was referring to... then it hit me.  As we were leaving to go camping, Mike went into the gas station and bought some drinks for the drive.  He came out with his purchases in a plastic bag.  I said, "What's with the plastic bag???"  He replied, "Oh, they just put it in it."  My response, "No Thank You are 3 easy words."

I say those words all the time.  "No Thank You" to plastic bags, balloons, straws, plastic utensils, ketchup packets, restaurant kids cups, to-go cups and boxes.... my list is long... if I don't need it, I say 'No thank you'.  AND even if the 'no thank you' item is already given to me (especially in drive-thru's things are thrown in the bag that I simply will never use)... I politely hand it back.  My reasons are varied for why I say "No Thank You".  Sometimes it's about how long I would use the item and how long it would rest in a landfill... sometimes it's a story or a picture.... 

Advice:  Choose something to say "No thank you" to and be prepared for the 'look' (of confusion).... it is inevitable :)

What's 'It' All About?

The other day, my husband asked me how I became so environmental.  I thought long and hard about it and for the life of me couldn't come up with JUST one answer.  For me, it's like the questions: "What is love? or Why do you love me?"  Some questions cannot be answered with one word.

What I do know is that I'm a conscious person... I learn something and it sticks with me.  Being open to new ideas has changed my way of thinking dramatically over the years.  I didn't become the person I am today overnight.  This has all been a process... day by day... week by week... month by month... and sometimes year by year.  Sometimes I would wake up and be like, "I'm going to change (blank) this week."  And when I make a decision to change something... sometimes it's easy... other times I've flailed and it has taken months before it became second nature to me.  That said, some things are easier said than done... but it doesn't mean that they can't be done.  Believe in me when I say, "I'm still growing and evolving the way I think and do things."

Years ago, as I would walk into Target carrying my grocery bags, I started saying, "If it's going to start somewhere... It's going to start with me."  I would go into Target with my reusable bags and when I checked out I would bag my own items so as not to "put out" the cashier.  The cashiers just didn't get it (some still don't)... but I was OK with that because I knew that if just one person saw me carry in my bags, then just maybe they would bring their own bags next time and then maybe someone would see them and do the same.  By me just doing one simple thing, I had the opportunity to create a ripple effect.  Over the years,  simple changes in the way I do things and how they relate to our environment have became so ingrained in me and have rippled into other areas of my life, including friends, family and even people I've never met.

So... here I will share with you what I do, how I do it, and most importantly why.... maybe just maybe something you learn will connect with you.

Your ripple....

 It Starts With You.