Monday, February 21, 2011

Reusable Shopping Bags are Taking Over! house, that is!

I have maybe 40 reusable shopping bags. I go to the store, feel guilty about forgetting my shopping bags, offer up an apology to the clerk, and either use a plastic bag (which I re-purpose for garbage and recycling), use a paper bag (which I save for the composting browns), or I buy a new reusable shopping bag.

At a food co-op I belong to, I've been eying these little duffel bags that come in their own pouch. During one of my recent trips to buy groceries there, naturally not having my other bags with me, I bought one.

Pardon the mess. In the process of moving.

After I got home and put away my groceries, I folded it back into its little pouch, figuring how awesome it was that it could actually fit in my purse. That's when I noticed the clip. Perfect! I normally clip my keys to the outside of my purse. The addition of a little bag wouldn't be a problem, and this way I would always have a bag with me for spontaneous (and not so spontaneous) trips to the grocery.

Also, the size is perfect for the size of my grocery trips: small and frequent. This keeps food from rotting in the fridge and allows the chef to change her (or his!) mind about the menu every few days. Plus, fresh food takes up much less space than processed food, mostly because of the packaging.

So, if you are like me and can never remember to put the reusables next to the door or back in the car or near the bike for the next trip to the market, get yourself one of these. They can be found at They are made from recycled materials and can be recycled by contacting the company.

To read about their mission, click here.

For reasons to use reusable bags, click here.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Waving the Yellow Flag

I know. Nascar, like religion, is sacrosanct. It's untouchable.

You might know, or can imagine how I feel about stuff that is considered untouchable: the more something is viewed as untouchable, the more it needs to be poked and probed and disturbed. Nothing is sacred.

Let's look at some Nascar facts, some connections between Nascar and the environment, some positives, and some solutions... and a kitten.

Some numbers and things to consider :

  • the average Nascar vehicle gets approximately 5 miles per gallon of gas.
  • while our vehicles are regulated by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), Nascar's are not. Nascar's regulatory agency is itself.
  • In a single race weekend, 6,000 gallons of fuel are burned.
  • In that same race weekend, approximately 120,000 pounds of CO2 is released into the atmosphere
  • Nascar's yearly CO2 emissions from the races alone racks up to a whopping 4 million pounds
  • The average American, in both car and home, emits approximately 45,000 pounds of CO2 in a year.

Nascar is trying to green their image. They are promoting green vehicles at their races (not for the races, mind you) often through their efforts to promote the benefits of ethanol, they plant trees to suck up some of the CO2, they recycle their tires, and they buy carbon credits.

My opinion of carbon credits is rather low. Here's how I see it: we're all sitting around a large bowl of M&Ms. Everyone pays the same amount into the pot, and the M&Ms are divided evenly. But I want more than my fair share of M&Ms, so I buy M&M credits, allowing me to take more out of the bowl. Anyone else around the bowl with enough money can do the same. You poor bastards just keep staring into that empty bowl. Some people (Republican politicians) might argue that the problem isn't the M&M credits but the size of the bowl. In order to make it fair, they say, we need to make the bowl limitless.

Only we're not really talking candy. We're talking CO2... that which is emitted by the forces that drive our modern world, that define our current definitions of progress and wealth and freedom, and that are changing our world in ways we are not sufficiently prepared to deal with.

Other seemingly green solutions have unfortunate consequences. Ethanol, for example, which is grown from corn, has created a shortage of corn for food consumption. Plus, due to the need for more and larger corn fields here in the US, soy farms have moved into Brazil, leading to further deforestation of the Amazon rain forests. (Soy isn't just in tofu. It's everywhere... soy lecithin, textured vegetable protein, "natural" flavors, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, etc. It's another reason, in case you needed one, for ditching processed food.)

And though they say they plant enough trees to 100% mitigate the CO2, it must first use a resource that is in ever-shortening supply. This resource, rather than being burned in races or converted to rubber for tires, could be used to manufacture those things we need for a future without it (solar panels and desalination equipment, as just one example).

Recycling really should be thought of as a last ditch effort, for Nascar and all of us. We should be aiming at reducing more. Those tires, while being re-purposed and recycled, first had to be manufactured, pulling precious resources from the ground, pumping pollution in to the environment. While Goodyear is doing a good service by recycling those Nascar tires, they are a major offender in environmental pollutants. (If you follow the Goodyear link, notice how part of their efforts to clean up their act involve corn...)

It might be a stretch of the imagination at first to consider that a Nascar race, and even their green efforts, affect thins like food supplies and rainforests. But, that's the way this whole thing works. And that's why we get ourselves into such big messes. The big picture is just as important as the details, and we desperately need to look at both.

Solution: I would encourage fans of Nascar to in turn encourage Nascar to green their sport even more. Perhaps they could shorten their races a few dozen laps? Perhaps they could hold less races in a year? Perhaps they could lower their speeds just a bit? Perhaps they could drive slightly less powerful cars? As my son suggests, what about electric cars?

I know, I know... Nascar fans are clutching their chests now. I'm not a fan, so I don't connect. I can't offer some of the practical solutions to Nascar that would help the environment
and keep true to the sport. Nascar fans, it's up to you!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Knowledge is Power... and its Funding is About to Be Cut

Well, it didn't work, people. On February 19th, the House voted to remove funding from PBS completely. BUT, it's not too late... yet. It goes to the Senate for a vote very soon. Please please please, follow this link and take action!



Today our government votes on whether or not Public Broadcasting continues to receive funding. PBS receives grants from corporations and from viewers, but they also receive federal funding.

This may not be an obviously green issue, but it has green ramifications. One of PBS's primary topics is nature. Nature education helps to foster an appreciation for the world in which we live, can spark ideas, passions, creativity. We NEED this kind of an education available to the public, to adults and children alike.

Some numbers to consider:

  • Public television has a monthly broadcast audience of 121.9 million people.
  • Public radio has a four-week broadcast audience of 64.7 million people.
  • Network websites reach 13.7 million unique visitors per month at,10.8 million unique visitors per month at, and 9.5 million average unique visitors per month at
  • Other digital media reach millions of people each month – through podcasts, mobile devices, smart phone apps, and satellite channels. Examples include 972,000 monthly unique users of NPR Mobile Web and 692,000 monthly unique users of the NPR News iPhone App.
  • Public media educational technologies and services are resources for millions of teachers and students through instructional TV content, interactive video and distance learning systems, online professional development for K-12 teachers, and workshops and services for childcare providers, pre-school instructors, and classroom teachers.
  • In-person connections. Stations and producers connect in-person with regular activities and special events including, concerts and performances, lectures and forums, workforce development programs, and oral history projects. Many of these activities are partnerships with local school districts and educational institutions, museums and libraries, and national institutions, including the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian.

If you support the good that PBS does for all of us, contact your representatives today, right now, and tell them how you feel! They represent you. They represent the common good.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Small yet Significant

Just got done watching the miniseries Middlemarch, a screen adaptation of George Elliot's 1874 novel of the same name. A line at the end really struck a chord in me, especially concerning the subject matter of this blog and the challenges we face today.

Taken from George Elliot's Middlemarch's finale "Sunset and Sunrise"

...the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number of people who lived faithfully a hidden life, and the rest in unvisited graves.

Translation for us 21st century types: that most good deeds never get recorded or told in stories or rewarded with fame or fortune; but those good acts, which make it better for all of us, are done by people like you and me, people who will never be known in either life or death.

Translation for this blog: you can make a difference; in fact, you are the only one who can.

Yes! :)

Green is Patriotic

Carbon Nation the movie premiered this past Thursday the 10th of February.

I love the concept for this movie. People who one might not expect to be on board with the whole global warming thing, or people who accept it's happening but don't necessarily believe it's man made, can still be passionate about cleaning up our water and air and finding alternative energy solutions.

As a 20-year military spouse, I love that "the colonel" is represented here. In recent months I've read a few articles about the DOD's awareness of both global warming and peak oil as national security threats. The military, often seen as a conservative organization, is totally aware of the reality of what most see as tree-huggin' and/or tinfoil hat wearing causes. I wish they would be more vocal about these issues, especially for the typical military-loving neo-con FOX News viewer who is otherwise told that global warming is a liberal agenda and there is no oil shortage, just a bunch of filthy hippies keeping us from our right to Drill Baby Drill.

Take note that both the links above were the very first Google hits and lead to foreign media outlets (The UK's Guardian). For some reason, the media in the U.S. doesn't want us to know the truth. Truth, like unity, is power.

The movie looks very inspiring, and is now showing! Check your local theaters, especially the independent ones, to catch this one on the big screen.

Solar powered kitteh!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Abandon Earth: Wake Up Call

Hmmm. This outrages me so much that I am going to keep my words to a minimum.

Global climate change is science, not politics. But, it has been turned into a political issue, an issue in which people are encouraged to take sides, as if it were a matter of opinion and not fact. A tool to divide us, to keep us from unifying. A unified people is powerful, after all.

Now, the Republicans, fueled by the "mandate" from the recent elections, are looking to reduce the outflow of cash. One of their solutions: cut funding to NASA's climate change research and redirect it toward "human spaceflight."

It has been suggested that this is an attempt to milk the planet for all its worth and then leave it. The letter, signed by Senate Republicans, has been dubbed Abandon Earth.

Look, I am an avid Star Trek fan. Since I was a little girl watching Kirk and Spock on my little black and white tv I dreamed of spaceflight, of a time when flying through space would be as common place as driving across town.

Then I grew up and I came to understand something: space is big. HUGE.

We've been at this space flight thing for several decades now and have yet to man anything past our own moon, and have yet to send any probes into space beyond our solar system. What about Mars or the Moon? If we can survive on Mars in domes, we can survive on Earth in domes. There are no planets out there that will sustain us naturally, and by no, I mean none that we will ever reach. Because space is... Hu-fookin-mongous!!!

Abandon Earth? More like abandon reason and hope.

This is one more reason we need to each, individually, do what we can in our own lives to make the planet as healthy as she can be, and to send a message collectively with what we buy and how we vote that we do not want to abandon our problems but fix them. We need to accept that there is no easy fix, and there is no escape. The future we need to work towards is right here, and only here.

Rethinking Beauty: Natural Facial

Before my male readers make a speedy exit, yes, men, you too can be "beautiful." Your skin is in just as much need of TLC as a woman's. :)

Wanting to deal with stubborn blackheads and clogged pores, I decided today to do and share the results of a cleanse with baking soda paste, followed by a hot lemony towel, a sugar scrub exfoliation and an apple cider tone.

Just got done with it and.. wow! Face is super soft, and some blackheads which have refused to leave are now practically gone. Amazing. Once again, nature proves you don't have to spend huge gobs of money, litter your bathroom with plastic bottles, nor slather your skin with chemicals.

The natural solution to cleanse and exfoliate:

1. Cleanse. Make a paste with a tablespoon of baking soda and a few drops of water. Gently scrub face and neck with this mixture. Avoid eye area. Rinse with cool water. (This cleanser is good enough to use every day, or every other day, or once a week depending on your needs, with just warm water for washes in between)

2. Open. Put a small saucepan on the stove and heat water until it's steaming (NOT boiling!! Not even simmering. Just hot.). Add a drop or two of lemon oil or fresh lemon juice. Dip a washcloth in. When it is cool enough to handle but still hot, wring out and place over face for a couple minutes to open pores.

3. Exfoliate. Mix two tablespoons of unrefined sugar with a teaspoon or so of water. You want the sugar moist but not dissolved. Use this mixture to scrub your face and neck in circular motions. Be gentle. The roughness of the sugar will exfoliate well enough on its own. Do this for a few minutes. Rinse with cool water.

4. Tone. Mix a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and 1/4 cup water. Apply to face with cotton ball. Let sit about 30 seconds and then use another cotton ball with just water to gently wash excess vinegar of. Dry. For the vinegar, I use the same kind I use on my hair. Bragg's unpasteurized organic apple cider vinegar, which contains "The Mother.")

5. Moisturize. If you are going outside, definitely use a sunscreen since your skin is like a babe's bottom now :p (For moisturizing, I use straight up jojoba oil.)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Where's The Beef Come From?

I love meat. I've cut back a lot, which has prompted some people (MOM!) to think I've become a vegetarian. Whenever I get sick or don't feel well, I'm told, "You need to eat meat!"

I do. Years ago, I considered becoming a vegetarian... and then I remembered bacon. Mmmmm bacon.

But I have cut back on my consumption of meat. It all started in 2005 with a video of a cow being slaughtered. It played on a loop. I can still see it. The cow walked in view of the camera, was hit in the head with a bar to stun it, and then its neck was sliced. The video ended as the cow struggled to stay upright as it slipped and slid around on its own blood, blood which was rapidly mingling with the blood of the cows that had preceded it.

That night, we had pizza with sausage for dinner. I almost threw up. I couldn't eat it. For a week, I couldn't eat meat. When I could stomach it again, I added it back into my diet with a promise: I would never look at meat the same way again. I would no longer assume the animal had not suffered needlessly, nor assume that the meat was clean or safe to eat simply because it was stamped by the USDA. I would be more aware of my food choices.

Eventually I cut down on the amount of meat in my diet, for many reasons:

1. The health of the planet. The more cattle, the more grazing land, the more trees are cut down to include the Amazon rainforest. The rainforest is a vital part of our ecosystem and global climate. We can't afford to lose it.

2. The health and happiness of the animal. The more we mass-produce our livestock, the less they seem like living beings and the more they seem like an item to produce, consume, and dispose of. Pigs tails being cut off to keep other pigs from chewing on them because they are packed so tightly together. Young male chickens being ground up alive because they can't produce eggs and are therefore useless to the industry. Cows being fed a diet not of the grass that they've evolved to eat, but of corn, which their stomachs can't digest well. This necessitates heavy doses of antibiotics to counteract the illnesses resulting from the poor diet, not to mention standing knee-deep in poop. Did you know that most antibiotics produced in this country don't go to save people's lives but keep cows, chickens and pigs "healthy" enough to survive their poor diets and living conditions? If we are what we eat, we can't afford to continue morally bankrupting ourselves in this way.

3. The health of myself and my family. Pounds of undigested meat in the colon. More protein than we need or has ever been consumed by humans before. Cholesterol problems. There are more reasons, but I think these are enough.

4. The health of our bank account. I won't lie. Humanely raised and healthier meat (organic, free range and the most important of all, local) can be more expensive. Unless one is wealthy, one cannot afford to eat better quality and humanely raised meat and keep up the consumption trends of the last few generations. It was a shock at first until I remembered this was a life that had been taken to sustain me, and one that I didn't even need. The least I could do was pay a fair price for it, which in turn helped us to eat less of it.

If you care to have your awareness pricked a bit, here is photo posted on Treehugger this morning. No kittens, just baby chicks.

Today's dose of reality:

Photos courtesy of Treehugger

The solution? There are several. While each might be a huge shift from where most of us are used to being, it's actually a return to the ways of an earlier time when people were connected with the source of their food. It's a subject for a later blog, but put simply, it amounts to making wiser, morally conscious choices when it comes to food.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Addictive Inspiration

I've volunteered a few times in my life. At the post office, on a scholarship committee, a burrowing owl relocation. Not as often as I should nor as often as I'd wish, but enough times now to piece together an understanding about myself: it feels really awesome to witness and join a group of people who are working to benefit someone or something other than themselves.

So awesome, I don't know why it has not become addictive enough to volunteer on a regular basis.

Well, no, that's not true. I do know why. While volunteering is a feel-good thing, it's much more labor and time intensive than, say... eating chocolate. With all of the unavoidable responsibilities in life, followed by all of the huge time sinks we have allowed ourselves to get sucked into (we thought tv was bad? Hello Facebook!), volunteering, like exercise and setting aside time to rejuvenate your "spirit," fall to the pile of Things I'll Get To Later.

Yesterday was an invasive grass eradication volunteer event. Briefly, Buffelgrass is a non-native invasive species in Arizona, introduced by cattle ranchers some years ago. It crowds out native grasses and is highly flammable. Buffelgrass fires burn at an intensity that native vegetation cannot take. When fire sweeps through the desert, saguaro die but Buffelgrass comes back stronger. If allowed to spread unchecked, the desert will turn from a diverse ecosystem to a monoculture savanna.

I agreed to go but had my doubts. The desert is a big place, after all. It seemed a lost cause. Plus, I had to get up at 6 am. And it was 30 degrees outside. Ugh!

I am so glad I did. I realized while I was out there that they are amazingly and diligently making a dent in this problem.

I also realized that people need to feel passionate about things, need to feel they can affect the world they live in. I think this was the first time that my volunteer efforts fit my passions. It worked for me. It felt right. I felt powerful, more connected, and 100% willing to do it again.

But this isn't about me, just a long way of getting to my point: We often hear people say, especially in regard to conservation efforts in the home, that one person can't have an effect on global climate or the depletion of resources.

They are right. If only one person was trying to conserve, that person's efforts would be completely wasted.

But there isn't just one person. There are many, and their numbers are growing.

My solution for this blog: volunteer. Find something that speaks to your passions. Surround yourself by others who are engaged in that common purpose. Feel that you are not alone in wanting to make the world a better place. Put your minds, hearts and hands together to find solutions. Feel powerful. Feel connected.

I'd even challenge those who might be reading this blog who don't have any particular "green" concerns to go to an eco-centered volunteer event.

Even if it's just once, or once in a while, it could tweak your perspective a bit. If we're honest with ourselves, we all need a bit of tweaking from time to time. :)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Besides 80+ yr old Grandmas and Tots Needing a Boost, Does Anyone Still Use a Phone Book??

This will be short, sweet, and to the point. Here's a site to opt out of phone books directly from the source! Seriously, who uses those now that we have the Internets??

Follow the Yellow Brick Linkage

photo credit

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Coconut Oil is Really... um... greasy!

Had a slight misshap with my hair yesterday. Decided to give it a coconut oil deep condition. Put the cocunut on my ends which, having layers, is at about my ears down. Left it on for an hour. Used the baking soda water on the hair, even the ends. Twice!

No good. My hair is an oil slick.

So today I will cave, but only slightly, by using Castille soap. Here's hoping the Castille soap is strong enough to do the job. If it does, I intend to do a coconut oil treatment once a month. Will use the Castille only on the ends, avoiding the scalp to ensure I don't muck with this awesome relationship my scalp and the baking soda has going on lately. Two weeks since I stopped using shampoo and it's looking great!