Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Charlie's Soap Update: adding scent

I miss that sharp, flowery smell from detergents. There I said it. Charlie's soap has no fragrance, and I want my clothes to smell something other than merely "fresh." It's like when I was weaning from deodorants, I would sometimes take the top off the Old Spice we use (now the Old Man uses it exclusively) and would just take a quick sniff, just to remember. I can't imagine how people use scent-free detergents, because I need that smell, man!

So, I gave in and have started putting a 1/2 teaspoon of fragrance oil in with the Charlie's Soap. I was worried it would leave oil stains on the clothes, but we put the detergent in through the center well of our washer, so it's easy enough to add the fragrance so that it is dispersed more evenly in the wash water. And the clothes have an ever-so-slight smell of cucumber and melon (the Bath and Body Works "dupe" I have a lot of and need to get rid of). When they come out of the dryer they have a slight trace of scent, just enough to feed the olfactory nerves, so I've been happy.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour Once Again! Today! 8:30 p.m. EST

I had some vague notion that Earth Hour was on my heels once again. I posted last year about Earth Hour (here, and here) but chickened out. I'm going to do it this year, though! I'll post photos (or does that go against the theme?).

Also posted in 2007 about the more general idea of prescribed or voluntary blackouts and what shape and forms that would take. In the post I link to a couple of places in the U.S. where they have already tried this on a large scale.

Small gestures like Earth Hour build into consciousness-raising for the society that consumes the most while being miniscule compared to the rest of the world; I hope this continues to gain momentum in the coming years as we become more aware of our environmental fragility in the face of global warming and its impact. I haven't taken it very seriously until now because I believe that we need to do more than the symbolic, and Earth Hour should be every day. I'll participate this year, though, and look forward to seeing the results.

Open For Questions: White House Online Town Hall

So, while I've been bed-ridden for the past week with a bad back, I had the golden opportunity to watch the new administration experiment with some never-tried ideas, like doing a virtual town hall meeting from the White House. It was pretty awesome.

For about two days before the town hall, the administration was soliciting online patriots to submit questions on the economy to the president, and the most popular ones would be chosen by the president to be answered during the town hall meeting. I decided I wanted to get on the bandwagon, and submitted this question:

Okay, the screenshot's kind of fuzzy, so here's the text: "Has there been any consideration [given] to forming a training center like Bunker Roy's Barefoot College in India? It is community organizing at its most basic and has been very successful." I did a post last week about the Barefoot College and thought it was an excellent idea that would be easily portable anywhere in the world, right? Seems my fellow digi-patriots were not behind me on this one: while 5 users voted that they liked the idea, 8 voted not so much on this one. Oh well, I tried.

Need-a-Bag? Project Update 03.28.09

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 reusable 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.

Once again, I have shirked my duties as Need-a-Bag? Project associate and left DG with the burden of hanging up a ton of bags. My back has started acting up for the first time in a long time, and I've been bed-bound and just getting to the point where I can start doing physical therapy-type exercises. But enough about me.

DG came up with a new plan for labeling the bags. She decided to print the labels on paper and safety pin them to the bags. I think, for all intents and purposes, that this is the best plan, yet. It saves money because those iron on fabric sheets (even just the printer fabric without the iron-on stuff) are really expensive, and it was too labor intensive.

Our unstated elegance ideal in this project has been that it should take the least amount of time to do and make the most impact. This has always been a balancing act, and I think the idea of safety pinning the labels on the bags is golden. The only other idea which matches it is just printing up slips with project information and placing them in each bag--another idea from DG.

I'm hoping to be back in the game next weekend, and will take some long over-due photos of newness at the farmer's market. DG said it was packed this week!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Need-a-Bag? Project Update 03.21.09

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 reusable 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.

A big "thank you" to Jean for her diligence in finding us tote bags -- she gave us a bunch (I'll have to check and see how many, but there were quite a few), and I believe we got some new ones in the drop box but we can't be sure. We went for a couple of weeks without labeling the bags, so now it's kind of hard to tell which ones are new; also, I was absent during a couple of weeks, so I haven't exactly been keeping on top of the tote bag collection, either.

Swiped the photo of the azalea w/bumble bee from Dan R.'s facebook album -- thanks, Dan!

NPR: When It Comes To Shampoo, Less Is More

I swear, listening to NPR via the WJCT web stream while puttering around at work has been illuminating. NPR is definitely jumping on the green-living/lifestyle stories, and so will try to highlight them here as they pertain to my own projects. Usually, regular media reporting on green living ends up like the vapid NY Times story on "Eco-Moms" that I ranted about a year ago.

Case in point: I've railed for a long time against the notion that people who work in offices and other white-collar positions do not need to bathe everyday. Here's a post I did almost three years ago where I make the point (albeit rather shrilly) that, unless you work in a coal mine, bathing everyday should be the least of your worries.

The same goes with hair washing (and, I often think the two go hand in hand); it seems NPR agrees. In "When it Comes to Shampoo, Less is More" (March 19, 2009), author Allison Aubrey gives a fascinating look at the history of the American obsession with hair-washing. Apparently, over one hundred years ago, washing one's hair once a month was the norm.

Once a month! I'm feeling a little skeevy if I wash my hair once a week (which seems the norm for me these days). Then why don't I wash my hair more often, you ask? Because, laziness is the greatest tool of the accidental environmentalist.

Got the pic from Imp Awards

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Digi-Prizes instead of umbrellas and tote bags for Sierra Club and others

I was thinking about the concept of digi-prizes last month, during the annual Disney Sweepstakes, where you can enter online once a day for the entire month of February. There are four chances to win a vacation for four to Disney, and in the second year I've entered I haven't won yet!

But, that's not really the reason why I enter; rationally, I know that there isn't a snowball's chance in heck that I'll win, but I do like the "digi-prizes" they give you each day you enter. Shown here is the Sleeping Beauty Clock, which you download for either mac or pc as a zip file, and then it opens up on your desktop. It's cute and there's also a Muppets clock and a Pinnochio calculator.

Then, of course, there are also the lame-o prizes out of the 28 possible digi-prizes, like the three different versions of the Ratatouille recipe cards, or the 101 Dalmations photo frame (these are basically just .pdf files), but for the most part, seeing what I'd get when I entered each day was definitely an incentive to keep coming back.

In my adventures in Second Life, I've also collected "freebies" from various organizations and groups. For instance, my avatar has a Science Friday t-shirt you get on Science Friday Island when everyone gathers to listen to the show. I also have WWF virtual briefs and sweatpants.

So, my thought is this: Instead of sending umbrellas, plushies, or tote bags for memberships to Sierra Club or World Wildlife Fund, why not give people cool downloads? I think the generational gap between old school, tote bag-wanting members and new guard, iPhone application-using members has closed up significantly. Why not offer a desktop tool, like a clock, a computer game, or some other application? I really think the possibilities are endless, and it would save on landfill space, because we all know that's where the broken WWF umbrellas and Sierra Club plushies are going once we get bored with them.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Barefoot College: Interview with Bunker Roy

This is an incredible YouTube video by the People's World Peace Project about Barefoot College founded by Bunker Roy in 1972. It is well produced and the subject is very engrossing.

Mr. Roy recruits women from poor rural communities around India and other countries to learn how to be solar engineers and then go back to their communities to set up and maintain a solar grid for their people.

I first heard about this a few months back, meant to blog about it, forgot to blog about it, and then forgot the salient information in order to blog about it. Then, I was listening to last week's podcast of Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, and they so generously provided all the information. There is a video about Barefoot College on the PBS site for R&E as well as a transcript.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

New Yorker article, "Made in the U.S.A." by Patricia Marx

I'm posting a link to the "abstract" of the article, "Made in the U.S.A." by Patricia Marx (New Yorker, March 16, 2009) because apparently some things aren't free on the internet. The fine folks at the New Yorker have to make a buck here and there, of course, and with news media in the tank and sinking fast, who am I to quibble about an abstract or full-length article. There is a thing called the library and a lot of them have access to these articles (but make it quick, because the "library" is also in the tank).

Anyway, late last year I posted a rant on a Mother Jones screed, "O Say Can You Buy?" by Nicole McClelland (and I never mentioned the author's name in the original post and my apologies), where she tries for a week to buy nothing but products made in the U.S.A. and finds it unbearably difficult. It was cringingly laughable to read, because on some micro-level, people who are socially conscious try to do this on a daily basis, with similar results. My point was that she left out the fact that buying products doesn't necessarily have to be "made in" the U.S., but can be "of" the U.S. -- for instance, buying used clothing from Goodwill. It is a charitable, non-profit based in the U.S. and sells clothing that may have originated in Pakistan, but has already left the main market stream.

The point of the article was to point out that there are not many products actually produced in the U.S. any longer, but the thrust of the article (I think) was picked up more successfully by Marx in the New Yorker piece. Both are written in a breezy tongue-and-cheek style--the impulse is to think they are implying that no one can take seriously the notion that people in America actually "make" stuff anymore, but rather consume it, but maybe the style is more indicative of their collective exasperation at the task of tackling the underlying issues in dealing with a home country that no longer produces everyday goods but, instead, jet planes and microchips.

The Marx article had a lot of good facts, however, and she had obviously gone out of her way to explore all avenues of "locavore" life (which, she pointed out, was the New Oxford American Dictionary's word of the year for 2007), at least within her sphere of New York City. A little disheartening was that a lot of goods produced in the U.S. are quite expensive, like Shaker-inspired furniture. Or chocolates. The locally-produced Brooklyn Buzz mead (using N.Y. state honey) was actually kind of cheap at 13-dollars a bottle, however.

The one fact that jumped out: Marx states that 86-percent of the average American's clothing budget is spent on clothing made outside of the U.S. Not surprisingly, but still startling. And also, coincidentally, the total number of crates Thomas Jefferson hauled back to American after his sojourn as Ambassador to France. This, Marx says, is after making the statement, "I have come to a resolution myself as I hope every god citizen will, never again to purchase any article of foriegn manufacture which can be had of American make, be the difference of price what it may." Hoo boy.

Need-a-Bag? Project Update 03.14.09: Remote Viewing

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 reusable 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.

This was yet another week that I was sick (when will this blasted cold season end?!) and so DG once again shouldered the responsibilities. When I called this afternoon, her report was that things were pretty much the same, but she mentioned that she thought she had gotten a new bag but it looked like an old bag. She described it as a tote bag that had been "hand embellished" with sea urchins and I remembered that that was an old bag that we had put out months ago! I'll have to see said sea urchin bag to confirm, but I do believe this is the first case of getting a bag recycled back into the Need-a-Bag? project stream! Yes, you heard it here first, folks, the dream is still alive!

The goal was to put out new bags as they were taken down from the fence, and then collect the bags that come back to us in the drop box, wash them, and put them back out on the fence. This is a strong indicator that the third, most important, sequence in the Need-a-Bag? project is becoming a reality. People are starting to return the bags they've had piling up in a corner of their closet!

The next step is replacing the signs. After a year, they are pretty sorry-looking, and it is time to get some more professional-looking signs--I think the phrase DG used was something like "trailer trash signs" or something like that. DG is gung-ho to take this project on and cost is no object, apparently. I'm with her on that -- it's time we stepped up! Branding! Marketing! Totey!!!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Need-a-Bag? Project Update 03.08.09 Happy Daylight Savings Time!

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 reusable 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 was a beautiful day at the market yesterday and it seems like the crowds have picked up a bit. We changed our labels again -- DG pointed out that the last one was a sentence fragment! Ouch. Anyway, so we've got new labels, and you'll notice the old one next to the new one in one of the photos. The bedazzled label held up pretty well in the wash, but it's a little frayed, and the backing came off and got all gunked up in the dryer, so I had cut it out with scissors so it would lay flat. The bag next to it is a cool Lancome bag DG picked up and got snatched up almost immediately.

So, anyway, we're using iron-on labels instead of bedazzled labels. It was fun and silly and looked very dorky but it is hard to sit around and bedazzle labels all night. I got a craft iron for projects with DJ ("Dude Junior") and ended up using that to iron the cloth labels. It works a lot better than the big iron, and I can even iron on labels on the non-woven polypropylene Publix bags--bonus!

After tussling with a fellow over sharing the last two cartons of strawberries (DG stepped in to keep the peace and gave me one of her containers), I got some yummy salad greens. I've got some sweet potatoes that I bought weeks ago, and I think I'm going to throw those into a potroast today (the roast coming from good old IFAS). Also got some tasty citrus -- I've been trying to buy one bag a week to put in the staff break room at my place of employment, the idea being that we should work harder to prevent scurvy in our co-workers and show them we care about their health and well being.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Dawn dish detergent

"As my hand reached for the small bottle of unnaturally blue dish liquid, I had already made a deal with my self; I would only use the Dawn dish liquid for grease stains on clothing and the occasional, very greasy dish."

That's me, describing my experience in the Publix last night, buying my first bottle of Dawn detergent in over 6 months (kinda "meta," huh?). Our family of dishwashers have been using Seventh Generation dish liquid, but frankly, it is just not the same. When you come up with an exceptionally greasy piece of cookware, it's impossible to get it clean with the green stuff. Okay, maybe I'm not trying hard enough, but I'm lazy!

Also, for grease stains on clothes, there is nothing like Dawn to get them out. Grease stains will even come out of clothes that have already been through the dryer. I'm sorry, but the greenest of dish liquids just cannot compete with that track record.

Here are some other uses for Dawn that I discovered on Associated Content:
Dawn Dishwashing Detergent: It's Not Just for Dishes Anymore!
Many products have uses consumers have discovered other than their intended purposes. Dawn dishwasing detergent if well known for having many uses other than washing dishes. Read this article for 10 alternative uses for Dawn dishwashing detergent.

Why didn't I try Charlie's Soap? you might ask, and that's a good question. I have made forays into Charlie's soap's almost magical properties (and check out the comments for NomX3's incredible story about her grandmother's pillow cases). I will have to try that the next time I have a grease stain and oh, there will be a next time. You see, the upper half of my body forms a shelf and drip pan of sorts for all sorts of food items that slip from my gaping maw. So, yes, there will be an opportunity to try Charlie's Soap on a clothing grease stain very soon.

Got the pic from Seventh Generation's website

Cooking for Good and Foody Sites and Blogs: Kind of a Blog Roundup

Here is a cool website I found while looking at the Green Diary Rescue this morning on DailyKos, called Cooking for Good. The author of the website purports to have a cooking plan that will allow families to eat for cheap and eat for the good of the planet. Here is the DailyKos diary, which gives some background on the plan.

Like a lot of sites and organizations that give alternatives to convenience cooking, they all look towards the books of Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and, more recently, Good Calories, Bad Calories, for inspiration.

Slow Food International is the premier organization that asks people to take more time to cook and reintroduces the notion of food as the fundamental ritual that holds societies together.

The Ethicurean "Chew the Right Thing" is a great blog that considers all of the implications in eating locally and within ethical standards. Hat tip to Stace for sending that link my way!

More locally, Hogtown Homegrown is once again taking registrations for its 2009 Eat Local Challenge. For the month of May, local yokels race around eating everything as locally as they can, either from their own efforts or from the efforts of the local restaurants. DG did it last year and got a cool prize and an awesome tote bag. Hogtown Homegrown is just an awesome site all-around, where you can find lots of great recipes for all your farmers market fare.

Nom, nom, nom! is just getting started in the blogosphere but has a lot of great tips on not only eating locally, but also on just making the basic building blocks of all culinary yumminess, like tomato sauce.

Got a good green foody site I may have missed (and I'm sure I've missed many). Please post them in the comments!