Monday, May 31, 2010

Repurpose and Reuse Cereal Bags

A month ago, I was reading My Garden Green and she had a fabulous idea to "Repurpose those Cereal Bags!"  Here's what she says:

"What to do with those plastic bags that house your cereals & crackers? Use them as ziploc bags! I have not bought a box of plastic storage baggies since November - yay me! I've been saving the plastics bags from inside our cereal & cracker boxes.  I just turn them inside out and wash them and let them dry.  So far I've been able to use them for taking my lunch to work, holding my washed/cut up fruit and veggies, storing leftovers in the fridge and even in the freezer.  I even stored a min-watermelon in one the other day.  Who needs plastic wrap?!  While I'm not sure what number plastic they are made from - yet - it sure beats tossing them in the trash. (I've emailed a couple of the companies and have not received any answers yet, but googling the bags points to a #2) How to seal it with no "ziploc"?  Reuse rubberbands or simple tie a ribbon around the opening!

Goodbye plastic bags and plastic wrap! May you never set foot in my house again!"

Of course, it's been years since I've purchased zip-lock bags... I used to reuse deli meat/cheese bags (but I don't buy meats anymore) and I've had the same roll of plastic wrap for the past few years (seriously, mentally it's hard for me to use the stuff and when I do use it, I save it for later to reuse as many times as I can... Grandma would be SO proud ;) ).  So after reading the blogpost on My Garden Green, I was super excited... so excited that I almost posted moments after reading it.  Then I thought... hmmm... I need to try this out!!!  It's taken me awhile for two reasons: #1.  I tend to always use containers with lids and #2. My kids don't eat that much cereal.  So last night, when I realized that all of my large containers were full and I had a whole cut up pineapple and some leftovers from dinner to store...

I pulled out 2 cereal bags and a couple of rubber bands (saved from produce).  My bowls were too big to fit inside the cereal bag, so I opened them up at the seam... used he biggest rubberband that I could find... and Voila! instant storage!!

YAY! for My Three Green Girls for coming up with such a creative way to repurpose an item that would normally end up in the trash!!! :)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Dear Smokers...

The beach is NOT your ashtray.

This evening, I was picking up cigarette butts (sans gloves, only my 2 hands and several trips to the trash cans) and made sure that I got close to some guys that were lighting their cigarettes... as they saw me picking up the cigarette butts, they said, "We promise we won't leave ours... those weren't from us.  We just got here.  Man, I feel like a complete asshole."  That made me laugh and I told him, "Another reason to quit."
Cigarettes are the number one littered item worldwide.  In fact, OVER 4.5 trillion cigarettes are littered worldwide EVERY year!!!  That's a huge problem considering cigarette butts are NOT biodegradable.  Nope, they're not made from cotton... the filters are made from PLASTIC.  Yuck!  Another reason to quit.

Seriously... quit.

Cigarette Litter Informational Site

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Magic in the Forest

I took the photo of this AMAZING tree at George Washington Nat'l Park in Montebello, VA.

The tree is devouring the "NO DUMPING" sign placed on it who knows how long ago.  It's eerily beautiful.  And I can't stop thinking about how magical this old tree is... a tree with a "mouth"... it's like something out of a movie.

"It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit."  ~Robert Louis Stevenson

"If what I say resonates with you, it's merely because we are branches on the same tree."  ~W.B. Yeats 

From Mountain to Ocean

Over the weekend, we went camping in Montebello, VA (it's part of George Washington National Forest).

As part of our trip, we sponsored a trail clean-up held by the Rover Owners Association of Virginia. The rules were simple: Whoever picked up the most litter (aka trash) on the trails, they'd win $100 and we'd make a matching donation to The Plastic Ocean. We were so excited to be getting more involved with The Plastic Ocean by informing people of the issues and making donations to help fund their efforts.

You may be curious... why donate to an ocean cause when we're doing a clean-up in the mountains?? Simple... the issues of littering in the mountains are no different than littering at the beach... one day... a piece of litter thousands of miles inland will find its way to the's only a matter of time...EVERYTHING is connected.

At the end of the day, we were completely overjoyed to see the bags of trash that people had picked up. In fact, the winning group picked up 3 very full trash bags of litter... and said that their kids were "totally into it." After the winner was announced, my husband briefly talked about the issues of littering and the effects it has on the environment, educated about The Plastic Ocean and explained why we were making a donation. A day after we got home from our trip, the winners let us know that they, too, wanted to make a donation to The Plastic Ocean. (Ripple) YAY!!! We'll be sponsoring trail clean-ups at all the camping events (at Nat'l Forests and Parks) that we attend and keeping up with making matching donations to our friends at The Plastic Ocean.

What can you do?? Anything, as long as it's something.
Get involved: Don't litter (intentionally or unintentionally), don't walk past litter, learn about the issues, speak up, teach, and give back.

A couple of years ago, I read this article and it had a huge impact on me....I highly recommend reading it:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ending Mountaintop Removal: Video

I have sat down numerous times in the past couple of weeks to write about my garden, my CSA, my rain barrels, water conservation... you name it... and then I read or see something and I get completely side-tracked. SO... today is no exception!! As I was getting ready to sit down to write about our most recent camping trip to George Washington National Park in Virginia... I open my email to this video that goes along with a post that I wrote at the beginning of the month: Flip 'Em Off

Check out the short video (0k... it's really an advertisement) and then visit to find out how you can help :)

Monday, May 24, 2010

That's MY Ride

Well, it's finally happened... I've given my Prius some long overdue individuality!!  YAY!! 

Over the weekend, my Pluckfastic bumper sticker(s) arrived in the mail!! (yes, Jennifer and Bonnie I have yours, too!

After adding the Pluckfastic bumper sticker, I added "Keep Life Wild" (Ando and Friends) and "Eat At Flaming Amy's" (Fast Cheap and Easy...Amy's burrito barn is my absolute favorite place to eat and they've even gone Styrofoam-free! :)). 

Besides loving the way it looks, I like the stickers because I'm making a statement about who I am... a girl that says "F*ck Plastic", enjoys an oversized burrito, and has a particular outlook on life :)  Now that's not ALL there is to me... so I'll definitely need to add some more "pieces of flair" because I REALLY want to express myself ;)

Hmmm... what to add next??? (any and all suggestions welcome :))

I'm thinking that I may need that sticker that says, "Tree hugging dirt worshiper."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Our Today is Forever

This IS reality... become conscious to it....

Now's the time to visit one of my absolute favorite blogs: Fake Plastic Fish. Learn to reduce your plastic consumption by checking out her Plastic-Free Living Guide and become conscious of the plastics you're using by participating in the Show Your Plastic Challenge!

Monday, May 17, 2010

What's SO Different??

Yesterday, we made our first trip of the summer year to Figure 8 Island. Figure 8 is our beach... although it's a private island... we can get to it by boat. We park our boat on the channel side of the island that runs parallel to the Atlantic Ocean. It's absolutely beautiful... the green of the marsh grass against the blue ocean... the water birds and other wildlife that live there... is breathtaking.

(My daughter, my friend Dawn and her son Dean)

As always when we go to the beach, we take a bag to pick up litter and marine debris that has washed up on the beach. In the past, we've mainly picked up things like this:

When we started our walk. I picked up a few pieces of plastic (not surprising... plastic is everywhere) and an aerosol can of bug spray... then I noticed quickly that there were no cigarette butts (obviously, from the lack of people visiting the island during the off-season... unfortunately, I know that soon will change). After walking a few minutes, we reached the point where the beach comes to an end at the edge of the marsh... where sea birds, hermit crabs, blue crabs and tiny snails amongst other things like to hang out.

One of the places that I check the most often for trash washed up on the beach is right at the surf line. I leaned over to pick up a piece of plastic that was at the surf line... I pulled and my heart sank... because at that moment I realized that plastic was entangled in all of the sea plants that had washed up on the beach.  The plastic wasn't new... it was dried out and looked melted.  It was so bad that we couldn't even untangle it... when we tried, the plastic just broke into smaller pieces... SO... we basically collected everything that was at the surf line for about 50 feet... I kneeled scooping and folding all the plastic that I could... we filled our litter bag and had to get another bag... all this in 15 minutes. :(

What's in the bags??  THIS.....

Yes, it was a huge pile...full of plastics, glass, cans, Stryofoam, etc... I could've spread it out... but with all the plastic... the wind would have surely carried some away... SO... check out the detail:

(had to pull out some marsh grass because the plastic had adhered to it.)

I know... it looks like I took many of the pictures right at the beach... and it should... because I took a good portion of the beach with me.  It really saddens me that some people can be so careless... so irresponsible. 

   SO... I ask you... what is the difference between what I cleaned up at my beach and THIS??

or between THIS:
A bird wrapped in plastic
and this??

a bird covered in oil

The thing is... there really isn't much of a difference.  Plastics are made from oil.  AND if you're saddened or if you're mad about the oil spill that is happening in the Gulf of Mexico and the detrimental effect it is having on our environment and those we share it with... THEN... now is the time to make the connection between oil and plastics.

By the way,  I'm planning on contacting Figure 8 Island to make them aware of what we removed from their beach... 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Green Police Video

I don't watch TV... so I totally missed this at Superbowl. BUT... I have to say that I would SO make an awesome addition to the Green Police!!! ;)

Monday, May 10, 2010

My Garden of Herbs

Five years ago--on Mother's Day--my husband and 2 children (then 3 and 11 months) planted me my very first herb garden. At the time, I had been talking about wanting fresh herbs for at least a year. I was an avid watcher of the Food Network... and one day on The Naked Chef... Jamie Oliver talked about using fresh herbs.  He said (in loose quotes... this was at least 6 years ago... so this is the gist of how I remember it),

"Using fresh herbs is great, but the idea of fresh herbs is that they're FRESH... not drive to the store 'fresh'... fresh does not come in a package."  

What he said, has been morphed over time... but the meaning of what he said has held strong for me for the past 5 years.  Using fresh herbs should be an organic process of cooking where you reach for herbs that are growing from the soil...when they're supposed to be growing... the idea of fresh herbs as a packaged product really undermines what using "fresh" is all about.   

So... that year, my husband got a big half wine barrel and various other pots and planted my most used herbs: Thyme, rosemary, parsley, chives (didn't use quite so much), dill, and basil.

5 years later, a cross-country move to St. Louis and back to Wilmington...I still have an herb garden... it's just in a different form. No longer contained to a wine barrel (it's now home to a contained forest of mint) my herb garden grows along the side of my house. It's also grown in the variety... I now have planted an unconfined forest of mint, rosemary, oregano, flat-leaf parsley, dill, thyme, lemon thyme, chives, sage, "Italian" basil, lemon basil, cilantro, chocolate mint, and a bay bush.  The only original plant that I have from that original Mother's Day herb garden are the chives. They've doubled and quadrupled in size... and while I don't use them as much as some of my other herbs... I LOVE having the ability to use them when I choose to :)  As with all my herbs, I cut what I need, when I need it and leave the rest to grow.  No plastic container, no rubber-bands, no twist-ties needed... and that means no waste.... because it takes nothing more than me and a pair of scissors.

My favorite thing about chives is their flowers.... ;)
Here's some Parsley and Dill growing from seed...

A little of my Mint forest and some Sage....

Rosemary and Thyme,

and Basil.

What to do with all those herbs??  Get cooking (or let them grow and flower for the pollinators ;)).  

Over the past couple of years, I have made the commitment to only use fresh herbs from my garden.  That means that I only use what herbs are growing in my herb garden during a given season.  I'm able to reap the bounty of Thyme, Rosemary, Sage, Oregano, Mint and Chives through all seasons.  Parsley comes and goes throughout the year.  I only use basil in spring and summer... yes... I make loads of pesto to keep in my freezer to last me all winter.  I try my best to center my cooking around what is growing...if a recipe calls for an herb that's not growing, then I make a substitution for something that is... the best flavor comes from the freshest ingredients... and you can't get any fresher than your own backyard (or patio or windowsill).

Here are a few photos of some recipes that I've tested for The Blissful Chef using herbs straight from my herb garden....

Since I'm recipe testing, I can't give out recipes.  BUT...  Magical Raw Tacos (above) were featured on The Blissful Chef Blog... SO make them...with whatever you have growing... they are absolutely AMAZING Magical ;)

Friday, May 7, 2010

In 4 Years...

Just imagine the future and how you can change it. That's what this blog is all about. WE can change the world.....

(Thanks to Jason Mraz for sharing this video :))

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Composting: Just Do it Already

Did you know that 35% of household waste consists of compostable materials???

For the past 3 years, we have been composting all of our kitchen and food scraps, food soiled paper products, leaves, grass clippings and many many other items including corn based plastics. I have professed my LOVE for composting (check out: "Throw It In the Compost Bin")... and as this is Compost Awareness Week... I'm gonna go ahead and tell you that it's about time you started composting and learn what my LOVE for composting is all about.

Of course, you may need convincing... I'm up for the challenge.

First things first... Obviously, when we keep all of our compostables out of the garbage, we create less trash. Less trash means fewer garbage bags (shoot, we don't even use trash bags) and fewer visits that the trash trucks have to make to the landfill. And speaking of landfills, less trash going to the landfill means that the landfills won't fill up quite as fast, which extends the life of landfills-- therefore, decreasing the need for new landfills. YAY!!!!

Did you know that composting is nature's way of recycling?! :) Sure is. And like recycling, composting just makes sense. And if since you recycle... composting is just the next step in diverting your waste (reread about landfills, if you must) :) And unlike sending your recyclables off to be processed, with composting you get to see the natural recycling process happen right in front of your eyes (ok.. the process is not immediate).

By composting, you can turn this:

(Yep... that's the new compostable SunChips bag in the back along with food scraps, paper bags and boxes, etc etc etc)

Into... THIS:

(Not leaves and a Ben & Jerry's container....Check out the line... that nice dark stuff at the bottom is finished compost.)

(This is what our almost finished compost pile looks like... won't be long :))

SO... are you ready?? (Good.)

Need more convincing?? (Tell me... I'll work on it.)

If you want to compost but are stumped on what to do with the finished compost... check out this link: Home Composting Made Easy and if you live someplace where you don't have a yard... you can use your compost in pots and planters or sign up for Freecycle and give away your compost :) (Also, there are some places (every area is different) that accept donations of finished compost... google is your friend ;) )

Monday, May 3, 2010

Flip 'Em Off!!

Lights that is ;)

I am a lover of light. I NEED light... I like my house to be bright... not dark and dreary.  At one time, I was the girl that had to have every light on in the house. I was a perpetual light "leaver onner." I'd walk into a room and my hand was like a magnet to the light switch... flip... and on would go the light(s). Sure... I always heard, "You're wasting electricity. AND money." That line never phased me. Then I saw a picture and learned where some of the power comes from to keep my lights on...

Yes, that is a picture of what mountaintop removal looks like. AND...That used to be a mountain. :( The saying, "a picture is worth a thousand words"... couldn't be more true because it was a picture that put the wasting of electricity into perspective for me. From the moment I realized that in order to keep my electricity running... mountains were being destroyed for coal... I changed my thinking. If I leave my lights on....No longer am I just wasting electricity or money... I'm wasting mountains (amongst other things).

Check out this link to find out: What's YOUR connection to mountaintop removal?

Of course, by habit, I often reach for the light switch when I go into a room. Then I stop and pull my hand back from the switch and head to the windows to open up the shades/blinds to let the light IN.  There is no better light than the light of the sun :)

Now... turning off lights has become like picking up litter... habit... I can't walk past a light left on just as I can't walk past a piece of litter without doing something about it.  SO...I go in someone's home, my kids schools, restaurants, model homes (it is possible that realtors LOVE light more than anyone ;))... you name the place... I've turned off a light there :)

Also, one of the biggest things that I do-- and am trying my hardest to teach my children-- is when I go into a room, I judge whether or not I need a light on based on if I'm able to see my hands in front of me. I think about how much light I really need to do what I'm doing... for example: doing laundry or brushing my teeth does not require much light.  Reading, on the other-hand, does ;).

So instead of saying to my children, "Turn off the lights, you're wasting electricity."

We say, "Turn off the lights, we love to visit the mountains... go camping.... and we want to keep them ALL beautiful."

Here I am with my daughter at Beech Mountain, NC :)

Use Less Plastic Video

Use Less Plastic from TakePart on Vimeo.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Rethinking Party Favors

The other day I got a text from my friend that read:

"Unless u can help me come up with a cool party favor, I'm just NOT doin it!!! I'm not givin JUNK!!!"

I immediately called her and said, "Take a stand!! Don't give party favors!" I said that because I really hate party favors. I always find it kind of ridiculous that kids expect a gift for going to a birthday party and giving a gift to their friend. I certainly don't remember party favors when I was a kid. The only time we ever walked away from a party with something (other than bellies full of cake and ice cream) was when we did a craft activity such as decorating shirts with puffy paint.

At our house, we don't usually give out party favors for our kids birthdays and when we don't I am always left feeling like a cheapskate. SO... for my friend... I decided to think about it... BECAUSE some people just feel better giving party favors... and if they're gonna give them... the least that I can do is put some thought into it and help them come up with something besides a bag of plastic junk that will most likely end up in the trash can/landfill/oceans.

So here's what I told her:

  • Pencil Holders: Last year, for my son's 7th Birthday party... I wasn't going to give out party favors. Then I had some Smencils from our fundraiser... so I bought some to support the initiatives of the non-profits that I'm directly involved in. THEN... I looked under my kitchen sink and there were SO many steel cans. I decided that I was going to reuse repurpose the cans and make pencil holders for the kids. Here's how: I ran the cans through my dishwasher to make sure they were free of all gunk, let them dry thoroughly, then I spray painted them. (I did purchase acrylic markers for the kids to decorate their "pencil holders.")
  • "Sponge Balls." These are great in place of water balloons :) My mom and I made them for my daughter's pool party last year. We had a total of 4 friends invited plus a few it wasn't too much work. The kids had a blast playing with the sponge balls in the pool, however, they didn't really hold up well to the older kids throws.
  • Cloth Napkins-- Put the kids names on their own reusable cloth napkin. Use fabric paint to let the kids decorate their napkin with their handprints.
  • A Growable Favor-- Get small peat (or terracotta) pots, fill with dirt, plant a seed (flowers, vegies, etc) and if you want to make it fancy: tie a ribbon around it.
My friend and her 6 year old daughter decided on giving a planted sunflower seed in a peat pot :) I am SO grateful that my friend asked me my advice AND took it... woo hoo!! Now there are 23 kids (and their parents) who have seen a different kind of party favor!!

By the way, my kids are super excited to add the sunflowers to our flower garden!!

Here's some bumble bees enjoying one of our sunflowers from last year :)