My Top 10 Tips for a “Green” Labor Day Weekend (And Don’t Forget the Laborers, esp. The Freelancers!)

September 3rd, 2010

Every year, my Labor Day post focuses on eco-friendly tips, but never before have I blogged about the real meaning of Labor Day. So this Labor Day, I’m adding a plea that you think about the many people – contract workers, freelancers, bloggers, writers, and others – who work hard but often don’t get paid for their labors.   As Crain’s New York Business reported this week, “the seemingly simple process of getting paid has emerged as the No. 1 problem facing self-employed workers.”   If you’re someone who works with self-employed people, or if you are one yourself, I urge you to read “Ugh: The Free in Freelance” and to check out the campaign run by the Freelancers Union.

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So this post is a little late..because I made sure to pay the independent workers I employ before putting it up. Would be a little hypocritical otherwise, wouldn’t it?

And now…on to my top 10 Tips for a “Green” Labor Day weekend.

1. Just about the first thing people think about on Labor Day is firing up the grill. This year, skip the burgers and beef hot dogs . The production of beef is a major contributor to three of the four  global warming gases   — carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane.

2. What to grill instead? How about grilling up some wild caught salmon instead of the usual beef?  If you’re at the beach, head to your local seafood shop. If you’re in my neck of the woods – MoCo near DC – check out Whole Foods fantastic saleon Marine Stewardship Council certified salmon, now $3.50 off per pound at $13.49 per pound at the Friendship Heights Whole Foods.   (And if salmon isn’t your thing, how about pasta salad, potato salad, or organic soy-based corn dogs?    Here are some other Labor Day recipe ideas).

3. Need a new grill?  My favorite  tips on solar-powered and other “green grills”are here at Diane MacEachern’s Big Green Purse blog.   And here’s a another great grilling tip courtesy of homespace – when it’s time to clean up, use good ole baking soda, water and a wire brush. Skip the commercial cleaners with their decidely un-earthfriendly chemicals!

4. If you’re still using charcoal grills, reconsider. The prices of gas grills have dropped dramatically – I’ve seen them on sale for just $95 at KMart  – and they’re a more Earth-friendly choice than charcoal.

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5. If you must use charcoal, Diane MacEachern suggests using lump charcoal instead of briquettes, which may contain coal dust
and other additives. Diane says to look for hardwood briquettes from forests certified by the Rainforest Alliance’s SmartWood program, or lumps made from coconut husks. Cow boy Charcoal, sold at Lowe’s, Trader Joe’s and under the Whole Foods 365 brand, makes chunk charcoal out of wood leftover from furniture making and construction.

6.

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Need to mow the lawn to make your yard look beautiful? Forget about conventional gas and electric mowers. Go retro with a good old fashioned push mower. Not only will you help to save the planet, you’ll get real exercise too! If you must use gas or electric, how about sharing a mower with your neighbors? (And if your little one wants to copy you, you can borrow the neighbors’ plastic mower. Yes, both mowers in this pic are borrowed! Talk about Reduce, Reuse, Refuse!)

7.

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To some folks, a party’s not a party is not a party without lights. Thankfully, there are more and more  choices for LED lights, including these patriotic red, white and blue starred LEDs I found at Strosniders Hardware.  (No, I didn’t buy them, but they’re cute, aren’t they?)

8. Consider  recycled paper plates. I found the ones pictured above  at my local Giant grocery store in Bethesda, Maryland, and I’ve also seen them at “Party City” stores. They’re priced comparable to  regular paper plates. They’re cute and an eco-friendlier choice!

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9. When dusk comes, and you head inside, open the windows instead of turning on the air conditioner. You’ll save money and the environment!

10. If you’re heading back home to the big city after enjoying time at the beach, you may want to check out the local farmers markets and grocers. We pick up organic and local fruits when we are in smaller towns that enjoy a lower cost of living than our big city home town.

Have a great holiday weekend!

Lynn

Gardening with the Green Moms: Talk About Stress Relief!

May 28th, 2009

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Did this photo make you smile? Admittedly, I’m biased since that’s my “Baby Boo,” but how could it not make you smile?

That’s one of the greatest things about gardening (and children). They bring us so many smiles. And when our lives are full of the hectic everyday busyness that is modern life, plus the unexpected curve balls that life lobs at you every now and then, well, who couldn’t use some stress relief?

Want to know how to get started with your spring garden? Check out a round-up of great gardening posts from the Green Moms Carnival over at Green and Clean Mom. My own post about recycled seed starter pots was belatedly added to the carnival after its launch, because I was …well…stressed out dealing with child advocacy and green advocacy issues; an elderly, sick mother; stitches for Baby Boo; and the everyday craziness that all of us face as parents.

Have you started a garden yet? It’s not too late! Leave a comment and share!

And if you just can’t get around to it this year, take a walk and go enjoy someone else’s garden!

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009 .

5 Tips for Observing Earth Hour with Kids: Get More than an Earth Minute!

March 28th, 2009

Last year, my grand plans for Earth Hour were derailed by the reality of life with little kids: as I blogged here, I ended up with an “Earth Minute.”

This year, I’m determined to learn from the past and enjoy a less rushed and stressed experience. Here are five tips that I’m hoping will make for a more enjoyable family experience. Let me know what you think. How’d your Earth Hour go last year? And what are you planning tonight? (Yes, it’s tonight!)

1. Stick to Your Routines
Clearly, whoever dreamed up Earth Hour did not have little munchkins to put to bed. 8:30 p.m. is simply too late for most kids. If your tykes hit the hay well before 8:30, DON’T, repeat DON’T try to do something special. Odds are, you’ll regret it…

2. Pick a Substitute Time that Works for You
This year, we’re going to have our Earth Hour during dinner (candlelight dining with my three boys should be fun!). If that doesn’t seem to go well, I may try for a few minutes after dinner. But bedtime – it’s still 8 p.m., Earth Hour or not!

3. Use this as a Teachable Moment
My first grader’s school observed Earth Hour on Friday. When I asked him why they did it, he said, “To help the Earth and stuff.” Yet when I tried to make a correlation between Earth Hour and turning off the lights in his room before he rushes off for school, he didn’t quite seem to get it. That’s another reason to do Earth Hour at the dinner hour – it will give us time and context for a discussion about why we are observing Earth Hour.

4. Give Yourself a Break

If despite all your plans, things still go awry, give yourself a break. When I look back at this photo of my little Boo Bear a year ago, I can’t believe how small he was and how much I tried to accomplish despite that. So many of us parents – especially the Moms – are guilty of this. We simply try to do too much.

5. Celebrate with Your Significant Other
Another benefit to Tips #1 and #2 is that if you stick to your kids’ bedtime routine, odds are you’ll have some energy to celebrate the darkness of Earth Hour with your significant other and perhaps a bottle of sustainable wine, organic beer, and fair trade chocolate.

Sounds a lot better than last year! I can’t wait…

Tell me about your Earth Hour! Leave a comment and share!

Lynn

Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

Getting Started with Seedlings: Make Your Own Recycled Starter Pack Containers

March 24th, 2009
Success with eco-friendly seed pots!

Success with eco-friendly seed pots!

Perhaps, like me, you’ve made the decision to try your hand at raising plants from seed this spring – only to discover that your eco-friendly plans go awry when you realize you have no containers on hand! A quick trip to my storage area didn’t turn up much, so I reached out to my bloggy friend Jess of The Green Phone Booth (and formerly of Surely You Nest), hoping we might be able to stage one of our rare reunions so that I could pick up some cast-off seed starter pots.

A died-in-the-wool Earth Mother who was raised by a Green Mom before they called themselves Green Moms, Jess went one better on me. She had no cast-offs to share, but she did share some of her gardening wisdom. She suggested toilet paper, egg shells, or newspapers. And knowing full well that those suggestions would leave me flummoxed, she helpfully pointed me to this great post from Planet Green, which suggests whipping up planting pots from egg cartons, yogurt containers, newspaper and toilet paper rolls.

The egg cartons seemed easiest to me – I’ve got plenty on hand and frankly, as I’m not really the artsy-crafty type, I found the instructions for the toilet paper and newspaper options a bit too complex.

Turns out fellow Green Mom Jenn Savedge, aka The Green Parent, is also a fan of egg cartons for seedlings, as she explains here. Here’s what works for me, based on tips from all three of these fabulous green women – JessTrev, Jenn Savedge and Jasmin Malik Chui.

1. Figure out how many seedlings you’re going to start, and make sure you have enough egg cartons and egg shells on hand.
2. Yes, as Jenn points out, you’ll want to wash those eggshells first with a gentle cleanser and water. I’m using the produce rinse for this job too!
3. Take a pin and poke a tiny hole in the bottom of each egg shell.
4. Fill with soil (hopefully organic compost from your compost bin), and drop several seeds inside.
5. Voila – once the seeds have sprouted, you can take the eggshells and the cardboard egg carton holders and plant them directly in the ground!

Not only is this a great project for home, but think about all those other times when you’re asked to come up with a craft project for the kids. This is a great spring craft project for school, scouting, or Sunday School. Works for me!

– Lynn

Note: As you can see, I updated this post with a pic of my successful seedlings sitting besides some newspaper pots I purchased at my CSA!

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

Easy Green Weekend Project: E-Cycling.

December 12th, 2008

If you live in my neck of the woods (Bethesda, Maryland), this weekend’s project is really easy. If you don’t live nearby, maybe you can pick up the phone or email a local government representative to ask when your municipality will be sponsoring an e-cycling day. And check out the list of more than 25 items that can be e-cycled! I had no idea – and I’m someone who’s really “into” recycling! Can you name all 25 e-cyclable items listed below?

On Sunday, bring your old electronics to be e-cycled between 12:00 and 4:00 p.m. at Walt Whitman High School. (There is a limit of 3 TVs per car).

You can win a new Samsung 26” Energy Star TV and everyone will leave with a bottle of Honest Tea!

Here’s the full scoop:

Electronics Recycling Day in the parking lot of Walt Whitman High School. The county will have trucks and staff to remove electronics from residents’ cars as they drive through the parking lot.
Accepted items include:
* small electronic appliances
* calculators
* camcorders
* CDs and floppy disks
* CD players
* cell phones
* computers and computer-related products
* consumer electronics
* copiers
* cords and cables (including chargers)
* digital cameras
* electronic typewriters
* fax machines
* microwave ovens
* personal digital assistant equipment
* printers
* projection equipment
* scanners
* telephones
* small electronic toys
* televisions
* VCRs

All collected items are recycled.

Sorry, we do not accept videotapes in our electronics recycling program.
How many items may I bring?

You may bring up to 3 televisions.

If you have significant quantities of other electronic items, contact the Division of Solid Waste Services online or call them at 240-777-6560 to see whether they can accept your items, or whether they must refer you to a private electronics recycler.

Easy Green Weekend Project #4: Learning about Creeks

September 19th, 2008

Barely recovered from back-to-school Green Mom Culture Shock, I’ve been struggling to keep it together as a single Mom this week while DH has been away “conferencing.” To give you some sense for how it’s gone, here are the catch phrases Big Boy taught Baby Boo this week:
• “Mean Mommy”
• “You’re a Big Meanie”

Well, I don’t know about you, but when I get stressed out, there’s nothing like reconnecting with nature to restore a sense of calm and perspective.

If you’re in the DC area, check out the “Discover the Somerset Creek” event this Sunday from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. And if you’re not in DC? Well, think about it – when was the last time you explored a creek? Heck, when was the last time you even said the word creek?

Join naturalists Sarah Morse and Suzanne Richman for a walk along the Little Falls Branch Creek which winds through the Chevy Chase, Green Acres and Westbrook communities. Learn about the challenges facing an urban creek and the steps you can take to help preserve this fragile environment.

Meet at Somerset Town Hall, 4510 Cumberland Ave, Chevy Chase, Maryland. Wear sturdy shoes as there will be two creek crossings on stepping stones.

Sponsored by the Little Falls Watershed Alliance. Contact LFWA at info@lfwa.org for more information.

Have a great weekend!

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2008

10 Tips to Green Your Memorial Day Picnic: Green and Organic Savings Friday

May 23rd, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend is the time for traditional picnics and barbeques. This year, go green! There’s never been a better time to do it – prices on biodegradable and corn-based disposable cutlery, plates and cups are down, and organic strawberries are in season. Here’s a look at what you can expect at the stores this week-end as you stock up, along with 10 tips for greening your Memorial Day holiday.

1. Need to mow the lawn to make your yard look beautiful? Forget about conventional gas and electric mowers. Go retro with a good old fashioned push mower. Not only will you help to save the planet, you’ll get real exercise too! If you must use gas or electric, how about sharing a mower with your neighbors?

2. Running out to pick up a grill? Diane MacEachern has some great tips on solar-powered and other “green grills”at her blog here.

3. The Big Green Purse author also suggests using lump charcoal instead of briquettes, which may contain coal dust and other additives. Diane says to look for hardwood briquettes from forests certified by the Rainforest Alliance’s SmartWood program, or lumps made from coconut husks. Cow boy Charcoal, sold at Lowe’s, Trader Joe’s and under the Whole Foods 365 brand, makes chunk charcoal out of wood leftover from furniture making and construction.

4. Cleaning off the dirty lawn chairs? Remember to use green cleaners. There’s no excuse now, with prices down to $2.98 on Green Works cleaners at WalMart.

5. Planning the menu? Re-think the beef. Beef is a key contributor to global warming. Can you go veggie? There are great veggie alternatives available like delicious veggie burgers, soy-based corn dogs, and of course the old staples of potato and pasta salad.

6.My Organic Market has a great in-store display up of everything you could possibly need for a green and organic Memorial Day picnic. From Drew’s Organic and All Natural Dressing and Marinade to Walnut Acres Organic Baked Beans, Rudy’s Organic Wheat Burger Buns for $3.29 per package, Rudy’s Organic Hot Dog Buns for $2.59 per package, Tree Free Plates for $7.99 a package, Biodegradable Forks, Knives and Spoons for $2.99 per package, and Tree-Free bowls for $4.69 per package. There’s a huge selection of organic beer and wine, and for the kids, Honest Kids Juice Quenchers are on sale for $3.99 for a box of 8 pouches. They even have gourmet lump charcoal – 100% all natural hardwood. (May be a contradiction in terms if you’re buying tree-free bowls, but we’ll leave that alone!)

7. What’s for dessert? It’s strawberry season! Finally, organic strawberries have fallen in price to the $4.99 a level (seen at MOM’s). You can even make a red/white/blue dessert with organic strawberries and blueberries and vanilla ice cream. Try Julie’s Organic Ice Cream. Its to die for!

8. Time to clean up? Whip out the biodegradable plastic trash bags, now just $4.95 per package here.

9. When dusk comes, and you head inside, open the windows instead of turning on the air conditioner. You’ll save money and the environment!

10. If you’re heading back home to the big city after enjoying time at the beach, you may want to check out the local farmers markets or grocers. We pick up organic fruits when we are in smaller towns that enjoy a lower cost of living than our big city home town.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone!

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Gifts They Can’t Buy You for Mother’s Day: Ask Without Guilt

May 6th, 2008

Ah, Mother’s Day, that one day each year when it’s supposed to be all about us. As kids, we feted Mom with a fancy brunch, a gift, and some flowers.

So it came as a shock to me when I became a Mom and realized that I really didn’t want any of that stuff. The fact is, I just wanted some time to myself…and I felt so GUILTY about it. Then I thought about it some more, and realized that there was something else I really, really wanted – a clean car.

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Wasn’t I supposed to be looking forward to Sunday brunch?

When I asked my other girlfriends, I found that many felt the same way. But few dared to ask their husbands for time alone and a “honey do.” Instead, they put on a smile and tried to enjoy another restaurant meal out – always a challenge for those of us with little ones.

But the statistics bear out what I observed in my own inner circle. Check out this survey of Moms and Free Time by Kiwi Magazine and you’ll learn that 79% of Moms say they don’t get enough personal time. In that first, intense year of Motherhood, you really crave it, and unfortunately that’s when most Moms feel most guilty about asking for it.

Fortunately, in my case, my church intervened, scheduling a “Mother’s Retreat” on the Saturday before Mother’s Day. This retreat is so cool that one of my Jewish friends is coming to take notes in order to convince her temple to offer a similar program!

With a simple meal, an interesting speaker, a meaningful service in the Chapel just for the Moms, and scheduled “me time” when you can take advantage of yoga, massage, or simply close your eyes on a sofa or go outside for a walk, the event is immensely popular.

And as for the requisite Mother’s Day gift? My DH asked me at least ten times if I was SURE that all I wanted for Mother’s Day was a clean station wagon. He really didn’t believe me at first.

While I was at the Saturday Mother’s Retreat with the six-month-old, DH and Big Boy emptied the car of assorted petrified Cheerios (okay, Toasted Organic Oatio-Os to be precise), bottle caps, torn papers, lost toys, ancient newspapers and magazines, worn out pacifiers, and about 984 other interesting items. Then they washed and vacuumed.

I was so excited, I was beside myself when I got into my clean looking and clean smelling Mom Mobile.

My DH was a little annoyed by the huge amount of rubble in the car. He made me promise that I would not let it get into such a state again. Did you see the photo up top? That was taken TODAY. Yes, the car is once again in pretty bad shape!

Anyway, I’m still angling for a clean car this year for Mother’s Day. It makes me feel good, saves me time, costs no money, is a great project for the kids, and is “green.”

What do you want for Mother’s Day? Leave a comment and share! OrganicMania will publicize what Moms really want so maybe all our dreams will come true!

And another good “green” option is a donation to a children’s charity…check out these amazing programs at J&J’s BabyCause site. The Parent Blogger’s Network is publicizing this charity, and I thought I’d give them a mention.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Serendipity: Earth Day During TV Turn-off Week

April 22nd, 2008

No doubt the blogosphere will be abuzz today with recommendations about how to spend your Earth Day. Clearly, if you can pick up some litter or skip a car trip, you can make a difference. But what else? How can you celebrate a meaningful Earth Day with a child?

Maybe it’s not just serendipity that causes Earth Day to fall during TV Turn-off Week. Maybe it’s Divine Inspiration.

As Treehugger pointed out, “The sad truth is that the average American kindergartener can identify several hundred logos and only a few leaves from plants and trees.”

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Why not use this week, when the TV is off, to teach your kid how to recognize different trees? It’s okay if you don’t know yourself…just grab a book or an Internet print-out like this one.

The best way to develop an appreciation for the Earth and its fragile bounty is to spend time with her most magnificent creation, Nature. If a child learns to love plants, trees, and animals, he’ll naturally want to learn how to take steps to protect Nature.

So this Earth Day – TV-Turn-Off Week, get outside and appreciate what we’ve been given. Then think about what you can do to help preserve it for future generations.

Help a child learn to recognize a Maple leaf as quickly as he may recognize a McDonalds logo.

Happy Earth Day.

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2008

Ten Tips for Throwing a Green Party

April 20th, 2008

Hope you all had a great Earth Day weekend. I found myself at a book party for Big Green Purse author Diane MacEachern, whom I interviewed here.

Talk about pressure to be green! But it turns out I wasn’t the only one wondering how to dress. That question actually came up at the party. And according to Diane, recycled fibers are best, followed by hand-me-down or “vintage” clothing, and then organic fibers like hemp or cotton. Cotton actually takes a lot of water to grow, organic or not!

Many of the women in attendance had on very chic recycled jewelry made of buttons strung through string and other natural fibers. Apparently a lot of eco-boutiques are carrying these necklaces or – you guessed it – it’s pretty easy to make yourself.

One thing really struck me about the party. Despite the savvy of this crowd of Prius-drivers, even they complained that it’s still hard to find “green” party supplies. People were trading tips about where to find corn-based disposable, biodegradable plates and cutlery.

Here are a few tips I picked up from the Master Green Party Givers, mixed in with a couple of my own suggestions:

1. Skip the paper invitations and use an email invitation program like evite.

2. Decorate with natural materials like plants.

3. Finger food means finger food. Why use forks at all? You can serve foods like asparagus, stuffed mushrooms, cut vegetables, baked brie, cheese, mini-sandwiches, and small pastries or cookies.

4. Go organic! Of course! This includes the alcohol. You can find great organic beers on sale like this one and of course even better is biodynamic wine.

5. Re-usable cups are important. No one likes plastic (least of all your green friends). But even the biodegradable ones are still kind of plastic-y, so why not use real glass or durable re-usable plastic (if you already have them at home)?

6. Cloth napkins are always elegant, but they take on new meaning at a green party. They don’t need to be fancy. You can even use handkerchiefs or odds and ends from a variety of sets.

7. Biodegradable plates are good for the environment, and they feel sturdy, too. They’re actually much nicer to hold than regular paper plates.

8. If you must use cutlery, opt for your everyday stainless. You can wash it. It’s better than plastic that gets thrown away.

9. There’s no need for party favors. People don’t need more stuff, least of all the greenies. If you do want to give something away, a nice reusable bag is always appreciated.

10. And as Diane pointed out, you can compost the left-over party food!

–Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2008