Saturday, March 29, 2008

My Response to Jennifer for "2008 GREEN LOG Home & Lifestyle Awards"

Dear Jennifer,

Thank you very much for getting in touch with me to let me know about your awards. I do not promote advertisements on my blog, except for a few products that I feel are environmentally safe and widely available to the mainstream community.

It would not be ethical to ask my readers to vote for my blog if that would send them to a site where they could potentially be exposed to advertisements for items that I do not endorse or support.

My reason for this is that green consumerism is still consumerism and is therefore not good for the environment. Instead of advertising green products and services, you should be encouraging people to not consume at all and instead get their items used and preferably for free.

It was good synergizing with you on this.

Michele Nordlie
Blogging Associate
The Accidental Environmentalist

Letter from Green Log re: 2008 Green Log Home & Lifestyle Awards

Dear Blogging Associate,

The Green movement is all about creating and preserving a sustainable ecosystem. In that "limelight," I'd like to personally thank you for your blog’s meaningful role in supporting public awareness and promoting public knowledge of the most noteworthy green solutions for a healthier home and lifestyle.

On behalf of the inaugural 2008 GREEN LOG Home & Lifestyle Awards, I also have a special honor to extend to you.

I'd like to officially invite you to participate in the inaugural 2008 GREEN LOG Home & Lifestyle Awards show, judged by the Environment News Service and thousands of others, including your readers, by hosting the Official Voting Banner.

Adopting the "best practices" of Social Media online, The GREEN LOG Home & Lifestyle Awards are seeking to partner with green bloggers to increase public consciousness about the choices available for designing and building a Green home, and applying Green solutions, methods and technologies in the course of daily living. To sum it up, our mission is to help "Build a Greener World One Home at a Time."

We are inviting a select few sites to host the animated Voting Banner on their Web pages to direct voters to the Official Polling Place. By doing so, you will shine a spotlight on the most outstanding green products, services and publications available, including blogs like yours! You are also welcome to host the Vizu Voting Poll at your site – acting as an Official Voting Site for the 2008 Green Log Awards. Once we have a final list of nominees, we will make the code for the Vizu Polling Widget available to you.

The Green Home & Lifestyle Award Polling Places will also be promoted and linked to in a large number of social media channels across the Web, as well as on national radio and television outlets who have agreed to participate in the program. In addition to Environmental News Service we will be utilizing Green Media Toolshed and nationally distributed press releases in promoting and bring awareness about the awards program, nominees, and sponsors.

Please acknowledge tour participation by emailing me directly to let me know if you are willing to be part of this unique social media ecosystem committed to Green education and motivation.

I look forward to synergizing with you.

Jennifer Hetherington

Green Log Awards, Inc.

711 E. Broadway Ave, Meridian, ID 83642


Friday, March 28, 2008

Earth Hour This Saturday!

I was reminded of the fact that Earth Hour is fast approaching when, on my way to Krishna Lunch, I was accosted by a polar bear bearing Earth Hour leaflets. I said, "Excuse, Mr. or Mrs. Polar Bear, does this mean I have to unplug my refrigerator, as well?" Because that was a question that had come up in discussion of Earth Hour. I was reassured in proper polar bear, I guess, with a paw swipe (not at my head, however) that it was not necessary.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Where I make an ass of myself at Krishna Lunch

So, I went ahead and got the 30-dollar Krishna Lunch card and used it once. Then, I realized that it only had 10 lunches on it, instead of 11 (as I reported in my first post on Krishna Lunch). So, I went on the Krishna Lunch line today ready to give them high holy hell about this. "Hey, uh," I started out when I handed my card to the nice Krishna lady. "I see there are only 10 lunches on this card -- didn't there used to be eleven?" I was ready to say, "Well, why bother getting the 30-dollar card when you get more of a break with the 20-dollar card? I was politely and patiently informed by the nice Krishna lady that, since their lunches have gone up a whole dollar -- to 4-dollars a lunch -- that the card still gives you a free lunch. And, because you get the extra quarter for bringing your own lunch gear, you almost get a free 11th lunch. Oops. I made quick apologies, got my food and got the heck out of there. Oh geez, there's a Krishna Hell for people who impune their sense of propriety, I know it...

Monday, March 24, 2008

End of the semester blues

This class and the internship I'm doing this semester are kicking my butt, so I haven't been as on the ball with posting. Hopefully this will change soon! Please visit the great local blogs What We Need is Here and Wasterweardaily and I will get back to work as soon as possible!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Happy Ides of March! Need-a-Bag? project update

Note: The Need-a-Bag? project was created to promote sustainable bagging at the Hwy 441 Alachua County Farmer's Market each Saturday morning. We supply resusable tote bags reclaimed from thrift stores and garage sales. The Need-a-Bag? project also utilizes old tank tops as tote bags by sewing up the bottoms (these are called t-totes). We invite you to read the other posts on the project by clicking the "Need-a-Bag? Project" label at the bottom of this post.

It didn't start getting blustery until later in the day -- good thing, because after last week's windy, chilly, miserable Saturday morning, I was not ready to fight the wind to put bags up on the fence at the farmer's market, much less attempt to make them stay there! Last week we ended up not hanging the signs because the wind was blowing so hard. DG found a way to loop the bags on the fence so they would stand a strong wind. I hope Erika wasn't running after bags at the end of the market day; we had more left this week than I expected or hoped.

The Need-a-Bag? project had a guest-star cameo from Kelly of What We Need Is Here, and she brought bags! Not only that, they were washed and dried and ready to go. Oh my gosh, and they were much needed, too. We put them up on the fence directly; next week I'll bring stickers if any of these beauties are left.

Still have the Virgo t-tote; if anyone would take pity on this poor bag--whose only offense to the world is having the word, "Virgo" splashed across it in rhinestones--my heart would truly be gladdened that it found a good home.

Got the photo from What We Need Is Here

Monday, March 10, 2008

Wendell Berry: The Andy Rooney of The Conservation Movement

First, let me say that I do not mean to belittle Wendell Berry by likening him to the curmudgeonly Andy Rooney of CBS's 60 Minutes. Andy Rooney is annoying; Wendell Berry, on the other hand, is not annoying. Indeed, reading one of his essays is a call to arms to fight harder to live a life of good conservation practices and principles, as well as working to convince our public fathers and mothers to exact real change in environmental policy.

But, you have to admit, Wendell Berry is a curmudgeon and, to all curmudgeons of the conservation movement (young and old) he is an inspiration. All of the essays I've read of Berry's come from my exposure to his writing in the now-defunct REL 4936 class (and I am really missing that class right now), and I encourage everyone to read at least one of his essays. "The Pleasures of Eating" is probably my favorite; it lays down the whole argument for the slow food movement as well as locavore consumption. By becoming aware of what we are eating and where it comes from, we can begin to relearn our place in the ecosystem. Every time I throw egg shells and carrot tops away, Berry's simple words of advice, "Make a little compost of your kitchen scraps and use it for fertilizer," come to mind. I finally listened to those words over the weekend and started a compost.

Fixing the Farm Bill

The eco-blogosphere has been ringing off the hook about the op-ed piece in the NYT ("My Forbidden Fruits [and Vegetables]") by Jack Hedin, the Minnesota farmer who writes he cannot grow fruits and certain vegetables because of the Department of Agriculture's 2002 Farm Bill, which places restrictions on what farmers can grow on their property in order to receive a subsidy. Here's a pull-out from the piece:

I’ve discovered that typically, a farmer who grows the forbidden fruits and vegetables on corn acreage not only has to give up his subsidy for the year on that acreage, he is also penalized the market value of the illicit crop, and runs the risk that those acres will be permanently ineligible for any subsidies in the future. (The penalties apply only to fruits and vegetables — if the farmer decides to grow another commodity crop, or even nothing at all, there’s no problem.)

You can access the 2002 Farm Bill on the USDA's website here, and Title I is the "Commodities" section Mr. Hardin is referring to. For a more in-depth look at this section, you would have download the 2002 Farm Bill itself and look under pages 11-23.

Another good source for information from the USDA is the publication "Eliminating Fruit and Vegetable Planting Restrictions: How Would Markets Be Affected?"

Here is a pull-out from the "Discussion and Implications" section of this publication:

Land Is a Minor Constraint for Many Farms
About half of the area devoted to fruit and vegetables is grown on farms
that certify their acreage with the FSA and therefore are likely to receive
program payments. Farm program rules permit these farmers to plant fruit
and vegetables under certain conditions. A farmer can plant fruit and vegetables
on the portion of his or her cropland that is not base acreage without a
reduction in payments. If nonbase cropland is not available, the farmer can
lease or purchase nonbase cropland and reconstitute the farm to include the
new acreage, again without incurring a payment reduction.

Farm program rules permit fruit and vegetables to be produced on base
acreage if the farm has a history of planting fruit and vegetables, but in
these cases, payments are reduced on an acre-for-acre basis. In 2003 and in
2004, payments on over 600,000 acres were forgone in order to plant fruit
and vegetables on base acreage. Thus, nearly 5 percent of fruit and
vegetable production was on base acreage. On average, these farms gave
up payments of about $22 per acre.

For farms that do not have base acreage—farms that are likely to be primarily
fruit or vegetable farms or livestock farms—planting fruit and vegetables
is not restricted. These farms can expand their production based on
land availability and expected market returns.

Reusable Coffee Filters Update

The reusable coffee filter I made last week lasted two filterings. I rinsed it out, used it one more time and it developed a hole in the bottom. I washed it with the kitchen rags and just ran the sewing machine over the bottom a few times. I'll use it until it falls apart.

As far as the fabric I made it with? I thought it was cheese cloth, but it's not cheese cloth. I think it's something I got at the foodie store, and it's basically a fine thickness of muslin. After hunting all over town yesterday for a similar fabric (I even went into Fresh Market), I bought some cheese cloth and washed it, hoping it would somehow come out of the dryer resembling the cloth I used for the coffee filter. It didn't.

I'll got back to JoAnn's and see if I can find something similar.

Update on the update: I used the filter with my coffee, the old man's coffee, and the briefcase thermos I take to work. Still holding up!

Updating on the updated update: Went to the foodie store before picking DJ up from school today (Hogtownians will know this store by the name, "Kitchen n' Spice") and found what I was looking for. It really is cheesecloth, but a "finest culinary quality" cheesecloth, so it doesn't look like mummy wrappings.

Last Update, bet: second day of using the filter--after rinsing it out, I hung it to dry and it was completely dry and ready to go by the next morning. I might only need one filter-- the coffee is still tasty and the filter isn't all clogged up.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Compost Bin, Finally

Awhile back I did a post on the 10-dollar compost bin. When I realized that I would have to use an electric drill to put about a thousand holes in the bin, I left the project in the carport.

Finally, finally, I could take it no more; I was done throwing kitchen scraps and coffee grounds in the trash. How foolish. And each and every time I did it, Wendell Berry's entreaty to "Make a little compost of your kitchen scraps and use it for fertilizer," played in my head, over and over.

So, last week, I got out the electric drill and stood out on our back porch drilling hole after hole into the garbage can turned compost bin. All told, it took about 40 minutes to do all this--with breaks, because my fingers were getting pretty stiff from holding the drill.

If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn't have cut the bottom off the garbage can first. After letting it lie dormant in our carport for about six months it had settled into a sort of oblong cylinder; getting the cover to lock on securely became an issue.

This morning after breakfast, DJ and I got our respective shovels and starting digging a round-ish hole in the front yard by the garden plot that has been laying fallow since the summer before last. I cannot for the life of me find those directions for the compost bin on the internet, but I believe the depth to bury the bin was 6 inches. I think we got down about 3 or 4, but after filling the dirt back inside and around it, it was pretty stable. And I was able to get it looking round again so the lid would lock on. We'll see how the raccoons do with it.

I have been saving up a small container of scraps and old coffee grounds and DJ helped inaugurate the new compost bin, as shown by the photos. He enjoyed putting the first batch in so much we had to go back in the house and scrounge through the crisper for decaying organic matter; unsurprisingly, there was much to choose from.

After dumping the next batch in, DJ took his shovel and starting mashing it up; I think children are instinctively good at these kinds of activities; I'm looking forward to his continued desire to turn the compost as it starts percolating.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Diva Cup A-Go-Go (Spoiler Boy Alert -- There Will Be Blood)

The worst has finally happened; during this last cycle I didn't insert the Diva Cup correctly, and it leaked like a jack rabbit all over me while filling in at work on Wednesday. The day was not going well, as it was, so to run to the bathroom and discover a menstrual explosion was definitely not the pinnacle. I cleaned up as best I could -- thank goodness it did not leak too noticeably on my skirt -- being of a brightly hued and loudly patterned synthetic it did not show up at all.

Here's a tip: Follow the directions that come with your Diva Cup, that's what I say. When I "live-blogged" the Diva Cup for a recent post, I mentioned the "pop" feeling I get when it unfolds into position. Well, you're really supposed to twist the darn thing this way and that to make sure it unfolds into place. Of course, I cannot be bothered with such formalities, hence the accident spoken of earlier.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Reusable Coffee Filters

DG and I were talking over the weekend about the reusable coffee filter she bought recently at Ward's. It's made of canvas, and it frequently clogs. We both use Melita coffee filters, and she is definitely the more environmentally conscious user; she puts a paper filter inside the reusable filter, and then washes the paper filter. She says she gets about two uses out of it. I don't know how she does it -- I try rinsing out my paper filter and it completely falls apart.

Anyway, so I've been mulling over the idea of how to construct a reusable coffee filter. Yesterday I tried a double thickness of cheese cloth nested in the Melita coffee cone and that worked exceedingly well. After taking DJ and the old man to school and work this morning I got to work on the filter. Should I be finishing up The Blithedale Romance for class on Wednesday? Yes, indeed. But no, fiber and machine exert its siren call on my seamstress soul.

So, this morning I made the filter. It took about half an hour. As you can see, I need to use wider bias tape to cover the edges more effectively; unfortunately, I don't think this prototype would last one washing.

My theory is that in order to make the reusable filters work, you'd need at least three; one to let dry a little so the coffee grounds will come out easier, so you can rotate a little better. I made a loop at the end so you could hang it to drain over the sink or dry after rinsing it out.

Note about the top picture: I uploaded this full-size, so you can click on it and get a more detailed look at the design.

Update: I had just come back from my run and decided that, besides a shower, I needed another cup of coffee and said, "what the heck?" I made it using the filter. It worked! It is a smooth cup of coffee, I might add -- at the usual strength using the 2 tablespoons of (gratuitous plug coming) Sweetwater Ethiopian that I usually use with the paper filter. I let the filter drain in the cone for a couple of minutes and then dumped the grounds in the compost container (that's another post that will have to wait, for now) and then hung it up. As you might be able to glean from the poorly-lit photo, I basically hung a bent paper clip from the cabinet, and put the filter on that to dry over the sink. Let's see how long the filter lasts, and in the meantime I might just make a few more.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

I'm Michele's husband, and I use a lot of paper towels. Been doing it for years. Mostly in the kitchen.

Water on the counter? Two paper towels.

Smart Balance on a knife I'm about to wash? Rip off a couple paper towels.

Stove top covered with crumbs and stuff and I need to make some mac 'n' cheese for DJ? Mucho paper towels.

I've stopped using them to dry dishes, though. For that I use cloth dish towels.

Why do I use paper towels so doggone much? Partly because it's convenient, partly because I'm lazy.

Should I use fewer paper towels? Probably.

But I do a lotta sustainable stuff -- I never fertilize the lawn, I often ride my bike to work and most of my clothes are second-hand.

And I have to draw the line somewhere. I do. I'm not gonna devote my entire life to living as nonimpactfully as possible. That'd make me more nuts than I already am. And, as Michele will tell you, I need to be less nuts.

So here's what I propose --

I will try to stop using so many paper towels. I'll use dish towels when possible. That's a change I can make because using paper towels isn't particularly important to me.

And I submit that the most fruitful way to try to get average folks to live sustainably is to encourage them to change stuff that doesn't matter that much to them. No, it's not gonna fix all the problems, but it's a start.

Stupid Dad Says That to Local Mom

The old man wanted me to lead off with that headline from our son. The old man also wanted me to blog about paper products and their [over] use in our household. This has been a bone of contention between us for some time. And, as long as I'm going along with what the old man wants, for once, he is also going to write a post after this one where he gives his side of things. A "he said/she said" sort of thing, I guess. It should be interesting.

Back to paper: I remember being a little girl and my grandmother chastising me for using too many paper towels; her reason for restricting paper towel use was purely economic, whereas my reason today is more environmental. But how big a deal is it? Well, Conservatree, a recycled paper company, says this on their "Tissue Overview" page:

"Tissue. No big deal, you think? North Americans use 50 lbs. per person (22.4 kg) of tissue papers per year, up from 37 lbs. per person (17 kg) twenty years ago. That's a lot of toilet paper and paper towels!"

I don't know where they got that figure but, hey, it sounds bad so why not print it?

According to Utah State University Recycling Center, the average American throws away 600 pounds of paper products a year. Once again, these numbers are coming from somewhere but who knows? It's one of the pitfalls of the electronic information age -- no one has the time to check their facts anymore and actually reference them in their writing. Like me!

One voice, Kleerkut, an off-shoot from Greenpeace, has been very vocal about Kimberly-Clark's continued use of virgin timber in making its products. They had a recent victory in their cause when Wesleyan University stopped selling Kimberly-Clark products on its campus.

As I said before, the old man and I go back and forth constantly on paper towel use in the house. He likes to use lots and lots of them, and I shouldn't complain because he does stuff like washing dishes and cleaning countertops with them. The compromise we've made is buying the Publix GreenWise paper products like their paper towels, which are made from 100% recycled materials and comparable in price to other name brands.

Now I turn the floor over to my DH.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

National Wildlife Week -- Response from Sierra Club

Dear Michele,

Thank you for contacting the Sierra Club.

I apologize for the delay in response. I did some research and it looks like we do not do much with National Wildlife Week. We mainly focus on Earth Day for our national activities. I would also suggest you try contacting some of our local Chapters to see if they do anything for National Wildlife Week (many of our Earth Day activities are coordinated by the local Chapters). To find a particular Chapter, just go to:

Feel free to contact them directly.

"Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Planet."

Best Regards,

David Perry
Sierra Club Information
(Please include this email in your reply)

Need-a-Bag? Project Update March

Note: Need-a-Bag? is a project to promote sustainable bagging at the Hwy 441 Alachua County Farmer's Market each Saturday morning. We supply resusable tote bags reclaimed from thrift stores and garage sales. The Need-a-Bag? Project also utilizes old tank tops as tote bags by sewing up the bottoms (these are called t-totes). We invite you to read the other posts on the project by clicking the "Need-a-Bag? Project" label at the bottom of this post.

Oh my gosh, I am so full of Pad Thai right now. Got home from Need-a-Bag and other Saturday morning adventures, and got to work making some Pad Thai (I don't know if I should keep capitalizing "Pad Thai" or not -- it just somehow seems right) for lunch. DJ even said he wanted to try some, but it's lying cold by his side as he works diligently on a pyrite digging kit -- you know, one of those kits where you get a chisel and a hammer and break open a block of plaster.

Anyway, enough about Pad Thai and over-priced educational kits that I could probably make my own self. Today was the day DG and I realized that we have not done any serious re-stocking of totebags for some time. And it showed. We still have the t-tote that says "Virgo" on it in rhinestones -- how could someone not want an old, pink tank top with the bottom sewn up that says "Virgo" on it in rhinestones? I'm scratching my head over that one.

Erika is our stalwart compatriot in the Need-a-Bag? revolution, and has been wonderful about packing everything up at the close of the market day. Thank you, oh Erika-of-the-sweet-and-tasty-citrus. Plus, she even referred a cool local lady to the blog, who has a blog of her own called What We Need Is Here, and you can see it here.

So we set up, did our shopping, and then headed to
The Alachua County Humane Society Thrift Shop's semi-annual yard sale. You can buy a plastic bag for $1 or a box for $3 and fill it up with all the stuff they're trying to get out of their inventory. DG and I each bought a box and totally loaded up on tote bags. It was weird -- we're usually the only ones looking for cheap tote bags, but at this thing there was a bit of competition from at least two other people. What's the deal? Parallel programs? It boggles the mind to think what anyone else could possibly want with old, pet-hair covered tote bags. Maybe they saw us scrounging for tote bags and there was suddenly a zeitgeist for the things, I dunno.

Anyway, we are flush with tote bags, now, just in time for the March festival at the Farmer's Market. As you can see, I've got the first load hung up to dry in the back yard, and the second load is drying on the wooden rack on the back porch. I'm going to have to do these in stages; I've got at least another two loads of totes.

One of the interesting things about getting old tote bags is some of the things that are printed on them, such as the above bag with "MetroGel-Vaginal" printed on it. Why would anyone want to carry a tote bag with that printed on it? More to the point, why would anyone name a vaginal gel "MetroGel?" The implications are terrifying and perhaps a little titillating.