Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Emily's Blog: The Green Edition

Alrighty, this is the long-awaited edition of my blog. The *GREEN* Edition.

know that to most people, green = energy use/global warming. And for those people...I'm going to humor you with this link: Al Gore. It's actually worth watching. Particularly if you were interested in An Inconvenient Truth. It's not short. 30 minutes. So during lunch. It's not a waste of your time. Promise.

Now, Green, to me, actually equals CLEAN. Sustainable. Chemical free. The chemical-free is something I've been mildly interested in achieving for as long as I can remember, but it was certainly raised to a whole new level after my brain swelled up last fall. No need to tempt fate, right? So here is my primer, complete with a few helpful links.

In your home, the best thing to do, and the easiest, is to recycle. If you live in Dallas, simply go to GreenDallas.net and request a bin. If you live in an apartment complex, then have your manager do it. If he resists, play him this: (or, if you're me and you recited it as part of the spring PTA recital thing when you were 7, then you can just tell it to him. At least, the parts you remember.)

Next, if you're feeling ambitious and not easily skeeved out, then you want to get a compost bin. If you're lucky enough to have a backyard, a pile will do. Eventually, this is the one that Steve and I will be sliding under our sink.

So, you've reduced your waste. Yay! Now, reduce what you bring in that produces waste. It's not as hard as you think it is.

At the market: put your produce in re-usable bags. Whole Foods has some that are remiscent of fishnets, they expand to hold whatever you're filling them with and they're very sturdy. We use them for anything on the large side: apples, potatoes, onions, rhubarb -- grapes, garlic, that sort of thing, those falls through the holes. If I'm buying one or two of a particular vegetable - artichoke, garlic, what have you, skip the bag altogether. You don't want to store it in a bag, and it will go in a bag to go home, so there's no need to use up one more for the basket-to-checkout trip. And of course, the no-brainer: take your own totes to the market. Yesterday was the last day Whole Foods used plastic bags. Yesterday should be the last day YOU use plastic bags. Give me your reason for needing them, and I'll happily supply you with an alternative. I have a large tote (the boat tote from LL Bean) and it handily holds all of my other smaller totes and at the market it is perfect for things like milk and juice cartons, and cereal boxes. (the packaging for all of which is recyclable.)

Don't buy pre-packaged stuff. In addition to having waaay too much packaging going on, there's no telling what's in there. The ADA is amazingly lax about these things. And you might find that once you start using fresher ingredients and taking a bit more time to prepare your foods, things, er, move, a bit more smoothly. You'll also have less waste. Find the bulk aisle (generally close to the produce) and shop there. Pull out your old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook (skip and recipe that includes squirrel) and you'll be amazed at what you can create. People always tell me how jealous they are of our fancy dinners (and Steve has earned the reputation of Food Snob at his office) but really, it's not hard. It just takes a bit of planning and sheer willpower to Be Bold. Watch Alton Brown. And Nigella Lawson. And read Plenty - at the very least it'll make you hungry. Also, watch - or read - Fast Food Nation. That'll motivate you to pay more attention to your food. For Real.

Shopping at the mall/target/other boutiques: take your own bag. Or, if you forget (or don't want to walk around looking like a smug twat) then ask the first store to give you a slightly larger bag and put all subsequent purchases in that one. But don't be the insecure chick I saw once who traded her large-enough White House Black Market bag for a same-size Neiman Marcus bag and then moved the stack of clothes from WHBM into the NM bag...and added the *stockings* from NM to them. Do appearances matter that much? You just *wasted* a bag? If you knew that you wanted people to think you were dropping an ass-load of money during your mall trip, why not start out at Neimans and save a bag?

I digress. Also, it seems small, but if the store has store receipts in addition to credit receipts, ask for one or the other, but insist that they not print out duplicates of both. It's 4 inches of paper, but if you can visualize with me a towering stack of not-always-recyclable-because-it's-heat-sensitive 4-inch slips of paper....that's a lot that you're not using.

Carpool. Or better yet, take public transit. The trip itself is more fun if you don't have to worry about a designated driver. And DART is expanding every day. Gas is pushing $4 a gallon. I get 30mpg in the city and that's still enough of an incentive for me to purchase a day pass.

At the office: insist on having a recycle bin in the breakroom, by the copier, anywhere there's flagrant waste. You have no idea how much paper copiers go through. And insist that the stock start off as recycled paper.

I feel like I haven't told you anything new.

At home, toxic cleaners should never enter your house. Especially if you have small children or pets. Read the back of any of your conventional cleansers. There's a poison warning. Let's use your floor as an example: you mop with say, a Clorox product. Residue dries into the floor. Your cat/dog/baby walks over the floor and gets residue on it's hand/paw. Then this creature that you care for cleans itself (or simply sucks its thumb) and ingests that residue. Not a lot, but enough. You wouldn't put it in your body, but you'll put it on the floor for someone else to put in theirs? Someone who has no control over what goes on the floor? Seventh Generation, Method, Mrs. Meyers...good ol' White Vinegar. Ecover (which makes a FABULOUS scrub). All non-toxic. See the link for "how to go green" at the bottom for more info. I am trying not to get too ranty, here.

Also, use rags! Bar mops, scouring cloths, cloth napkins, etc etc. Think of how skeezy sponges get. Think of how much money you drop on paper towels and napkins. That, plus the fact that once they've been used they can't be recycled, FAR outweighs the cost of washing cloths. In our home, we're 95% fabric. 5% paper -- for runny noses and kitty barf. Oh, and toilet use. (They might convert me to not be grossed out by washing handkerchiefs and using rags for kitty barf, but they will have to pull toilet paper from my cold, dead, hands. Ditto anything that absorbs blood. For real.) It's not fancy, it's cost-effective.

It's also worth noting: Friends Don't Let Friends Drink From Plastic! Why, you ask? BPA. PVC. BAAAAD. Alternatives: Sigg (recent news, here), Voss (bottled water is a joke. However, I like my water cold and ice-free. These come in glass bottles and take trips through our dishwasher where they are sterilized). When we were on Corsica we noted that every restaurant served us water from big glass jugs (similar to these, one of which is now in our fridge) instead of giving us disposable bottles. They also served local food without a care for "Trends." In retrospect it was our first foray into "local dining" and it remains some of the best food I've ever eaten. Even the calzone from the little takeout place down the street - they made their dough in-house and used local ingredients. Yummmm.....

It's worth noting, and this is taken from here:

"A significant amount of plastic, however, is not properly disposed in landfills and makes its way into the environment. Plastic does not biodegrade quickly which means it remains in the environment for a very long time. Plastic trash has made its way to coastal ecosystems and the ocean, presenting a danger to marine and birdlife. Plastic debris can be found in many coastal areas (as well as inland); however, one of the greatest concentrations of plastic trash is a Texas-sized floating island of plastic debris in the north Pacific gyre, a collection of trash that has been swept together by ocean currents."

And speaking of pets - are you aware that the clay for your litter is STRIP MINED? Alternative abound. We use Swheat Scoop, which is made of - you guessed it - wheat. It clumps up, and it's flushable. You simply let the clumps soak in water (in the toilet) for roughly 20 minutes so they dissolve, and flush.

So that's cleaning, pet litter (do I even need to discuss pet food, or have the recalls scared you into action? Just remember - it's literally an act of cruelty to force your vegetarian ways on your animal. Particularly if you have a cat. Their little bodies are constructed as carnivores and to deny them essential proteins is akin to willful mal-nourishment. Not Cool.), and now food.

Local Food - being a "locavore" is all the rage these days. And I have to say that in addition to shrinking the "carbon footprint" of your meal, it just tastes better. Steve found the local farmer stalls at the farmer's market on Sunday and came back with 16 yummy eggs, ripe delicious strawberries, and several other items. Shopping this way - and eating this way - opens up whole worlds. Grow what you can, obviously, and patronize your local farms and your meals will be richer for it. You'll be healthier for it. (I used the flowers from my basil plant along with a couple of leaves in pasta sauce last week. It added a subtle dimension. And the shoots from not-yet-matured garlic are VERY yummy on white fish with lemon, butter, and white wine.)

I must take a moment to lecture everyone who says "unfortunately the area we live in blows when it comes to growing things." Horse. Shit. You read that right. Horse shit. If I can grow basil in my windowsill, and my mom can plant a questionable looking potato -- you can find a farmer close enough who can provide you with yummies. So you live on the coast? Seafood! You live in a completely land-locked area? Fruit trees, honey bees, root vegetables, herbs. Put some chickens in your backyard (rescue all of those ill-advised easter gifts) and have fresh eggs! Even in New York City (you might have to register for that link to work) residents are filling their postage-stamp backyards with fruit-bearing trees. I don't have so much as a balcony, and yet I've got basil, dill, and oregano. After I heal and re-organize the office to hang my bike, there will be a lemon tree in our bedroom in front of that southern-exposed window. I killed mint ten years ago. So when I say "If I can do it, you can do it!" know that I am not lying. I Killed an invasive weed.

Ok - so doing all of that actually helps to keep evil chemicals off of your food. If you're friendly with the farmer then you can find out exactly what's going on with your food. The only thing better is growing it yourself.

As for meat, find yourself a local butcher who's more than happy to tell you anything you want to know. Mine is named Greg and he's delightful.

Oh...I know that there's more, but the vicodin is either kicking in or wearing off (it's so hard to tell lately) and I've gone all fuzzy. So I'll wrap up.

Remember - think about what you put in your body. What goes into your foods (ADD and ADHD are actually recently linked to food dyes and preservatives...) and your home. It effects your body. And what is it they say about an ounce of prevention....?


How To Go Green (yes, it's a treehugger link, but it's rather comprehensive)
Idealbite - I get daily emails from these guys. They're good for all kinds of random, helpful information.
Ecorazzi (everyone needs some gossip)
Alternative Registry this links to an example for a baby registry. I ran across it at some point when I was trying to do a bit of research for my sister-in-law. I wish I had known about it for our wedding because it's where I would have registered.
Gaiam - good for housewares and general lifestyle needs
G Diapers - an option for re-usable diapers. Cute, too!
Earth911 - fairly comprehensive recycling site...good for general information as well
Organic Style - an online mag - fairly enjoyable
Your Footprint - If everyone lived like you, how many planets would we need? (full disclosure, if everyone lived like me, we'd need 3.5 planets. Don't lie when you take the quiz. That doesn't help anyone)
and finally, Planet Green, a fun little site from the Discovery Channel. It often gets linked from Treehugger.

Ok, so remember: everything you need to know about preserving the planet you learn in Kindergarten: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Don't waste. Don't hit your friends. Don't steal crayons. Share. No littering. And, one from Scouts -- always leave a place looking nicer than when you found it.

That was a lot to digest. Kudos for making it this far.

I'll leave you with one of the greatest songs of all time: (and point out the irony that there was a parking lot across the street from us. They ripped it up and it will be a park. Eventually. Put right again.)


Jessica said...

NICE blogging Em! You know I agree with all of it. Well, maybe with the exception of the veg-dog. You know mine has been veg for most of his life (sans weekend trips to Grandma's house!) and I researched and asked several vets about it before trying him on vegetarian dog food. Now he's half avo-derm, half veggie food and doesn't seem any different! As long as he's healthy and happy, I am too. :)

Happy Happy Earth Day!!

Jessica said...

So much of this stuff is what I am looking forward to the most about having our own house. My father-in-law has a big compost pile and a big garden and I'm hoping I can learn from him. Last year he even grew corn!

My solution to cat litter? My cat goes to the bathroom outside. I can't take credit for it, he trained himself to do it, but I only have to buy cat litter every few years for when he's stuck inside and can't get out. Next time that purchase comes around I'll look into the natural stuff.

Going to the farmer's market for the first time this weekend, and hoping to have great luck with it.

Once I've used the rest of my poisonous cleaners I will be going completely with vinegar and baking soda, and supplementing where necessary with the store-bought eco-friendly stuff. I bought a plant-based laundry detergent, and I also have a recipe for making my own, which I look forward to trying when I don't have to walk to a laundry room.

Longest comment in the history of blogger, clearly. Sorry. :)

Linda said...

I agree with almost all of it. I feed my dogs meat and natural, human grade, organic, and holistic dry foods. They also get vegetables, and food that I cook. They love fruit. I read a lot about pet food and pet food recipes. It seems one could study the nutritional needs of being a vegetarian pet and make sure they get all they need. I get my books and all varieties of excellent pet food from www.EverythingNatualPetFood.com

Emily said...

As my husband pointed out, the ADA (American Dental Association) wouldn't care, but the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) does.

Yeah. I'm on drugs.

Anonymous said...

That is an EXCELLENT POST!!!

Another item to add, though: breastfeed, don't formula feed! Think about all the cans thrown in the trash - probably one a week - plus the scoops that they come in, plus the gas used to go to the store to buy more formula, plus the electricity or gas or whatever used to heat up the formula, plus the use of water, not to mention all the health reasons for breastfeeding over formula feeding... Breastmilk is free, doesn't use any resources other than the mother, and is already heated to the perfect temperature.


P.S. Happy Belated Anniversary! I promise I was thinking of you two that day!