Check Out This Month’s Green Moms Carnival: Green Back-to-School!

August 30th, 2011

For the fourth time in as many years, my friends — the Green Moms of the Green Moms Carnival – have come together to share our tips on how to get ready for the back-to-school rush.

Green Moms Carnival

I hope you’ve read my post about how sometimes even Green Moms forget to Reduce, Reuse, Refuse, Repurpose, and Recycle.  But that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Head on over to Mindful Momma to read a great compilation of more than twenty posts about the green-back-to-school.

Enjoy!

– Lynn

Back to School Shopping: Remembering You Can Still Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose or Recycle!

August 20th, 2011

I chalk it up to a mother’s Prehistoric background as a Gatherer, married with her primal instinct to protect and prepare her offspring. How else to explain the fact that so many of us forget all about the Cardinal Rules of The Five Rs (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose and Recycle) when it comes to our own precious darlings’ return to school?  Sure, it’s tempting to fall into green shopping mania, but take a closer look at some of these tips…you may find that you can get away just fine without many new items for back-to-school.

Back to School Essentials?

After all, when was the last time you heard a grade schooler say, “Mom, I really need a  new lunchbox!” OK, granted, maybe girls are different – but I’d wager that boys could care less about the many new “back-to-school” items most Moms feel compelled to buy.    My rising fourth grader has been toting the same Crocodile Creek lunch box since kindergarten. Sure, it’s looking a bit beat up now, but does it really matter?

durable PVC-free lunchboxes

The fact is, if you spring for high quality gear at the outset, you may find, like me, that you’ll get years and years of use out of your back-to-school items.  Here’s what’s worked for me:

1. Lunch Boxes: Crocodile Creek’s PVC-free lunch boxes are incredibly durable. The one pictured here is going into its fifth year of service. For some reason my other son’s Crocodile Creek lunch box didn’t last quite as long – perhaps because of too much spilled yogurt on the inside.  When it got even a bit too funky for my taste, I replaced it with this Hanna Andersson lunch box, which is a bit roomier.

Do I think it’s time for a new lunch box after four years? Well, yes, so I purchased a new one…but Big Boy told me sensibly, “The other one is perfectly fine, Mom. And it’s not so eco-green to buy new every year, is it, Mom?”

2. Backpacks: Resist the temptation to buy the cheap theme backpacks. It’s amazing how soon that cool character they absolutely must have this year become so LAST YEAR or worse yet, BABY-ISH.   Perhaps because of the shortness of the “awesome factor,”  most of them are not built to last, but if you’ve got a younger one in preschool, they do make good cast-offs — even with broken zippers.

After my son’s Spiderman backpack broke after just two weeks of use, I purchased a durable Eddie Bauer backpack, which is going into its third year of use.  Sure it’s a little dirty, but again, we’re talking about a boy. And we could always …wash it!

durable school back packs

Other great sources for durable, long lasting backpacks that last for years? You guessed it…Hanna Andersson and Crocodile Creek.  And if your little one must absolutely have Spiderman, Thomas, or some other character, check the consignment shops. After waiting patiently for a season, I found an adorable Thomas backpack for $5. Of course, it’s broken now.

If you’re tempted to give in to the Back to School shopping mania, just think about all you can do with the $100 or so bucks you might save by not indulging. A nice dinner out. Some money in the savings account. Or a great little something for YOU.

What do you think? Will you be skipping any of the so-called back-to-school “must haves” this season?   Check out what the Green Moms of the Green Moms Carnival have to say about Back to School shopping at our 4th annual Back to School Carnival, hosted by Micaela of Mindful Momma on Monday.

Disclosures: In case you’re wondering, I don’t do any work for the companies mentioned here. They’re not clients, and I purchased all the items mentioned in this piece…most of them, years ago!  :)

– Lynn

The Top 10 Things I Loved About BlogHer

August 9th, 2010

I had a great time at Blogher. Some people in my circles asked why, given all the controversy about the Nestle sponsorship and the excessive, sometimes reckless consumption which marred BlogHer ’09.

So here’s why. Here’s a list of the Top 10 Things I Loved About BlogHer.

  1. It’s the only time I get to see my tribe: the members of the Green Moms Carnival and the many other bloggers whose work I respect so much. I tweeted that I was up “partying” with The Smart Mama, Condo Blues, Fake Plastic Fish, Mindful Momma, and The Soft Landing. But actually, we’re a little nerdier than that. Sure we love to party. But you can do that anytime. Looking up municipal water tables and calculating the amount of time a glass of water stays fresh before bacteria breeds? I just can’t do that with my friends at home in Bethesda!

Siel, Jennifer, LynnphotoGreen LA Girl Siel, left; Jennifer Taggert of The Smart Mama and Yours Truly Relaxing After a Session

gmcphoto

Ok, Ok, this pic was taken last year at BlogHer ’09. Can you believe we don’t have a group shot from this year?

2.   I loved seeing all the women. It’s a very special experience to be at a conference for women, by women, particularly if you’ve worked in fields, like I have, where there are few women on the conference circuit.

doppelgangersphotoDoppelgangers? It’s been said that Alicia of The Soft Landing and I look alike. What do you think?

3.  It was a better BlogHer than last year from a sustainability perspective. Would I call it a Green Conference? Or even say, “BlogHer Goes Green?” Uh….no. But it was a huge step in the right direction. And I’ll have more to say on that in my next post.

swag exchangephoto

4. Great speakers. My favorite this year was the ending keynote. When I listened to the beautiful 70-year old Marie Wilson of The White House Project and Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, I was inspired.  Her vitality made me think,  “Wow, I’ve only just begun. I’m not so old after all. I have a lot yet to do and to give.”

MarieCWilson

5.  The Babies of BlogHer

6.  Great dancing. The dance floor rocked. How often do most of us get out dancing? Uh…never. (Except for my recent college reunion!)

7.  Pampering.

8. Never being asked to stop tweeting.

9.  Interesting people. The opportunity to strike up conversations is right in front of you all the time. Every woman there has a story. What’s hers?

bloganthropy photoWith Debbie Bookstaber, co-founder of Bloganthropy.  (Thank you, Corolle dolls for your sponsorship of Bloganthropy!)

10.  Wonderful venues. New York, of course, was amazing. So was Chicago last year (my first BlogHer conference). And next year, BlogHer ’11 will be in San Diego. I’ll be there. Will you?

newyorkphoto

– Lynn

Copyright 2010

Green Schools: Green Moms Tell It Like It Is!

August 11th, 2009

With 32 submissions from 28 green women bloggers, I am thrilled to share what may be the most comprehensive listing of environmentally friendly back-to-school tips on the web. From daycare to college to homeschooling, we’ve got you covered! And these tips are from women who’ve been there and done that: the wonderful women of the Green Moms Carnival.  Thanks to all of the contributors for sharing your insights so that together, we can green those schools!

On a side note, Happy Birthday to the Carnival! It’s hard to believe, but we got started a  year ago August when we launched our very first carnival, “Tackling Global Warming.”

Let’s  dive in. The 32 blog posts fall into eight categories:

  1. At the Beginning: Green Childcare;
  2. Healthy Meals and How to Pack a Waste-Free Lunch;
  3. School Supply Lists and Eco-Friendly School Supplies;
  4. The Edible Schoolyard;
  5. Why It’s Worth Fighting to Keep Recess;
  6. Greening Your School: From Green Committees to Green Certification;
  7. Back to School: Homeschooling Edition; and
  8. Tips for Green College Kids.

So sit back, grab your BPA-free water bottle, and enjoy this comprehensive look at Green Schools.

At the Beginning: Green Child Care

  • Mary Hunt of In Women We Trust tells us how the Los Angeles Community College District is setting new standards for green building, which benefits the child care centers in the system. As Mary puts it, “build green, teach green, learn green, live green and bring the next generation along in your footsteps.”

Eating Healthy  – What to Eat and How to Pack a Waste-Free Lunch

  • Of course we all know the most important meal of the day is breakfast. Sommer from Green and Clean Mom shares  some great Healthy Breakfast Ideas
  • Amy from Crunchy Domestic Goddess shares some really nifty tips for Turning Back to School Lunches Green. I especially appreciate the fact that Amy brings up the issue of over packaging, and she even includes links to great recipes!
  • Green Bean from Green Phone Booth shares a wonderful story about an old cookbook, circa 1951, devoted to packing  healthy, interesting, and waste-free lunches. She poses the question: So what have we really learned in 2 generations?
  • Like Green Bean, Mindful Momma writes about a simpler era and then goes on to include some simply wonderful, clever tips for packing a healthy lunch. Check it out!
  • Amy of  Gift of Green passes along some helpful tips for how to pack a waste-free lunch in her post, “Back to School, Back to Green.”

Those Darn School Supply Lists, Plus Eco-Friendly School Supplies: What are They? And  How to Find Them

  • Are you sick and tired of antibacterial soap everywhere, including on your child’s school supply list?  ( I know I am!) Katie from Kitchen Stewardship issues this Bath and Body Works Anti-Antibacterial Soap Letter.  Katie has made it easy to, as she puts it, “vent about the overuse of the toxic triclosan and the crazy marketing Bath and Body Works throws at us, our children, and their school administrators.” On her site you’ll also  find links to information about safe hand-washing, the dangers of antibacterial soaps, and a breakdown of hand sanitizers to prepare you for the back-to-school germaphobia.  (Frankly, I think I’ll pass her letter along to my school administrators in addition to Bath and Body Works. It irks me to no end that we were all but required to buy anti-bacterial cleansers  for the classroom!)
  • Sommer of Green and Clean Mom, in her second submission to the carnival, feels much the same as Katy does about anti-bacterial cleansers, particularly those with triclosan.  In her post, “Triclosan and the Non-Toxic Classroom,” this former teacher offers some tips for dealing with the schools around this issue.
  • Beth Terry of Fake Plastic Fish presents us with a conundrum: which one of these three binder options is actually more environmentally friendly?  As with so much in the green movement, the choices aren’t clear-cut.
  • However, as Beth points out in her second contribution to the carnival, the choice of using PVC or not is actually quite clear-cut. Beth presents a great argument against the use of PVC binders, lunchboxes, and the like, and links to more resources from the Center for Health and Environmental Justice, which has just launched a Parent’s Guide to Safer School Supplies.
  • I swear, everytime I read one of EnviroMom’s postings I feel like packing it in and moving to Portland. This one is no exception,  with Renee writing about a wonderful local organization that consolidates the school supply lists and donates excess to charity. She also shares some of her hits and misses in shopping for eco-friendly items for back-to-school.

Eco-Friendly School Supplies,  Waste-Free Lunch Tips and More: All in One Green Tips for Back to School!

Several of the @GreenMoms shared great round-up posts with tips for green back-to-school that include everything from healthy waste-free lunches to eco-friendly school supplies, to clothing, walking instead of riding, and more! 

  • Just when we’ve figured out what BPA is and what all those plastic # signs mean, we’ve got another strange substance to become familiar with:  Microban.  Read all about it here courtesy of Jennifer Taggert, the SmartMama.
  • Tiffany from Nature Moms gives great tips on Eco Friendly lunch boxes and water bottles,  including reviews of some of her favorites, as well as helpful tips for clothing, backpacks, and other school supplies that are kind to the environment.
  • In “Going Back to School Green,” Leslie from Recycle Your Day shares her memories of how she prepped for back to school – back in the days when recycled paper was gray and cheaper than conventional paper!  Plus, she shares plenty of more-up-to-date tips with us, including reviews of a few favorite products.
  • And if you’re not sure your kid can master the art of returning bottles and containers, Diane of Big Green Purse has a “secret tip” for you, in addition to some great background information on why environmentally-friendly lunch boxes are so important. Check out “Lunch Boxes Should Be Safe and Environmentally Friendly” and learn about some of Diane’s favorite eco-friendly options!
  • If you find that some of these eco-friendly lunch kits simply cost more than  you’re willing to spend, check out “How to Pack a Cheap and Easy Waste-Free Lunch” where I share some of my favorite frugal green tips, from $1.99 for a big pack of recyclable brown bags to el-cheapo reusbale food containers.

School Supplies: End-of-Year Disposal Issues and a Quest for More Sustainable School Supplies

The Edible Schoolyard: Kindergarten Edition

  • Deanna from Crunchy Chicken shares “The Edible Schoolyard,” an encouraging tale of how a kindergarten class started an edible garden at her local elementary school.

Why It’s Worth Fighting to Keep Recess

  • In “Recess Helps Kids Learn, Don’t Take It Away!” Katy Farber of Non-Toxic Kids shares her insights about why it’s important to keep recess a priority in the schools. One would think that the research on the benefits of healthy recess would be well understood by educators, but unfortunately it’s still not a priority in our nation’s schools.

Greening Your School: From Green Committees to LEED Certification,  & Asbestos Abatement

  • Tiffany from Mommy Goes Green shares “My Healthy School” – some great tips for working with your school administration to green your school. 
  • The bloggy world is so crazy – I had to go to BlogHer to meet Jennifer from Puddle Jumping in DC – who just submitted a wonderful post about a  certified green school, right here in Montgomery County, Maryland, where I live! I had no idea! Check out Jennifer’s post, which includes a wonderful video of a 5th grade girl discussing what it’s like to study at a green school.

Back to School: HomeSchooling Edition

  • Of course, it’s dilemmas like the fight for recess that Katy described in her post that are pushing more and more parents to private schools and to homeschooling. Lisa Sharp doesn’t  have kids of her own, but she was homeschooled and she shares some wonderful memories and tips for Green home schooling parents in her post, “Back to School: Home Schooling Edition.”

Tips for Green College Kids

  • We’ve run the gamut from daycare to college. The kids have grown up, but we parents are still concerned with keeping ep them healthy and safe. Karen Hanrahan of Best of Mother Earth shares her tips for helpful herbal remedies for how to Keep  Your College Kid Healthy.
  • Lisa of Condo Blues shares ten tips for college students who want to go green. My favorite? Donate unused clothing, furniture, food, etc. before leaving campus.

About the Green Moms Carnival – We are a group of green women bloggers, united by our desire to protect and preserve Mother Earth. Once a month or so, we share our thoughts on a common theme, so that together our environmental messages are heard by more people than we could possibly ever reach on our own. You can read more about us here and you can subscribe to all our blog posts automatically through Twitter at @GreenMoms.

– Lynn

Green Schools: Five Lessons Learned the Hard Way

August 9th, 2009

Editor’s Note: This post is for the Green Moms Carnival on Green Schools, which will appear here at OrganicMania on Tuesday,   August 11th. There will be great contributions from green women bloggers from all around the country, weighing in on green schools – from nursery school to college!

It seems like just yesterday that I squeezed into a seat at the kid-size cafeteria tables at my son’s new elementary school. I was there to participate in my very first PTA meeting, and while I was interested in many of the things going on at the school, what I really wanted to learn about were the school’s environmental initiatives. I wanted to get involved in the Green Committee.

Imagine my surprise when the PTA leadership didn’t seem to understand what I was talking about. They invited me to become involved with the committee that watered the trees over the summer. Oh, and they  really wanted some help with a children’s garden.

waste-free-photo

But I’m not much of a gardener. I may feel green, but my plants are brown. I wanted to focus on environmental issues like substituting  conventional school cleaning products with more environmentally friendly options;  introducing  waste-free lunches; eliminating the throw-away styrofoam trays used in our lunchroom;   replacing Sally Foster fundraisers with more eco-friendly options; and stopping the Cheap Plastic Crap giveaways used at school fundraisers.  And that was just for starters! Then I could see moving on to including walkable schools in our County and State Carbon Reduction Programs, retrofitting the school with solar or wind power, and more…

I think the other committee members went into overload just listening to my wish list.   Our principal suggested that the new parents hold back and watch and learn what went on at the school instead of jumping in with a million new directions.  So I did what comes unnaturally to this Jersey girl: I shut my mouth.

After the meeting, several other of the incoming parents approached me and said they understood and supported what I was proposing, and would be glad to help. The problem was that no one wanted to lead the effort. No one could seem to find the time.  I agreed to co-chair a committee, but soon found that coordinating with a co-chair and getting the committee off the ground fell by the wayside as I focused more of my energy on work, home, family, other volunteer work,  OrganicMania, and the Green Moms Carnival.

I blogged a bit about my Green Mom Culture Shock during this time and how I was Dealing with the Schools: Coping as  a Green Mom…but then I went all quiet on you. Didn’t say too much about what was going on…

So did we make progress this last school year? Yes, but not nearly as much as I would have liked. I did learn a few lessons, though, which I’m happy to share with other eager parents as they seek to navigate the new world of PTAs and public schools.  What about you? What’s worked for you? Please leave a message and share, because the new school year is about to start up and  we can all learn from each others’ experiences.  What’s worked for you as you’ve sought to green your school?

Lesson #1: Meet People Where They Are

Only months after that first meeting did I learn that the existing gardening committee had plenty of “greenies” involved who would have been happy to take on many of the other issues I proposed.  And had I volunteered first with that committee, proved myself, and learned how things worked at the school, our Green Committee probably would have had more impact.

Lesson #2 Get Support from Area Non-Profits

Through the Green  Schools committee of my town’s sustainable communities initiative, Bethesda Green, I learned that the Audobon Society’s Green Schools Initiative was  trying to reduce waste at my son’s school.   Several of the other committee members were from my son’s school, and we were encouraged us to go back and try again with the Green Committee, or just to do things on our own as we could fit them in.  The woman who led the charge? Probably the busiest one among us – she has triplets!

Lesson #3 Seek out Liked Minded Allies in the School Early On

Through the Green Schools committee, I met a teacher from my son’s school.  She was able to shed some light on mysteries like WHY the class buying lists contained so many plastic items, and how to get that changed for the next school year.

She was also able to explain that there were a bunch of different Green initiatives going on at school that would have more reach and impact if they were coordinated. Coincidentally, I heard the same thing from the PTA president at that time.  Soon we were able to get things a bit better organized, and on much sounder footing for this coming school year.

Having friends “on the inside” of the school really helps!

Lesson #4 Connect with other Local Schools and Learn  What’s Worked There

Some of the other schools here in Bethesda, Maryland  have had far greater participation in their “Waste-Free Wednesday” lunch campaigns than we did with ours. It may just take time for new ideas to take root, but  it would  have been ideal if we could have touched base with the green leaders at our town’s other schools to see how they achieved so much success.  Thanks to our community-wide Green Schools initiative, we’ll be connecting with those other green school leaders soon.

Lesson #5 Propose Well Thought-Out Alternatives

It’s not enough to say, “Get rid of the traditional school fundraising programs and  all of the “stuff” that they push on people!”   When well established fund raising programs are bringing in $20K or so for the PTA, you’ve got to have a plan to replace that money.  There are many new green school fundraising programs emerging, but how much money are schools actually making from these programs?  That’s one question I haven’t yet been able to answer to our PTA’s satisfaction.   (Perhaps a kind reader  will leave a comment here with that information!)

What about you? What’s worked and what hasn’t worked as you’ve sought to “green” your neighborhood schools?  Please leave  comment and share!

Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

How to Pack A Cheap and Easy Waste-Free Lunch

August 9th, 2009

There are many  eco-friendly options available for school lunch, but let’s face it: most of them are still pretty pricey. Shelling out  $21 for a Sigg water bottle or $37.95 for a Laptop lunch box adds up to big bucks quickly.

The very popular Sigg bottles range in price from $17.99 to $24.99 at this Bethesda Whole Foods.

The very popular Sigg bottles range in price from $17.99 to $24.99 at this Bethesda Whole Foods.

Here are five super cheap, easy ways you can send your kids back-to-school with an eco-friendly lunch bag.   If you’re fortunate enough to have what you need already, maybe you could take this post and send it to a school list serv or to others  who might find this information helpful.

There are really just five things you need for a waste-free lunch:

1.    Lunch box – or brown bag. While there are great eco-friendly lunch box options out there, most range from $14 on up. You can buy a pack  of 100 brown paper lunch bags for $1.99.    No, it’s not totally waste-free,  but most municipalities recycle paper – so you can toss the bag out with the newspapers to be recycled!     It’s a much more environmentally  friendly option than buying a conventional school lunch bag, which are often made of PVC plastic. Read here to learn why you want to avoid PVC, which is harmful to our health and to the environment.

As seen in a Bethesda Safeway, buy 2 packages for $3.98 and you'll have enough recyclable brown bags for the entire school year.

As seen in a Bethesda Safeway, buy 2 packages for $3.98 and you'll have enough recyclable brown bags for the entire school year.

2.    Water bottles. This is a biggie. Visit nearly any school cafeteria and you’ll see a staggering amount of waste from disposable juice boxes and milk containers.  Yet most stainless or non-PVC water bottles are $10 and up – some as high as $25 or more.  Before I invested in two Sigg Mr. Sharky’s  (pictured below), I used a good ole Honest Tea bottle. Made of durable glass, it was fine for drinks on the go.  I still use one in a pinch!

A durable glass bottle, such as this Honest Tea bottle, can be reused as an on-the-go water bottle.

A durable glass bottle, such as this Honest Tea bottle, can be reused as an on-the-go water bottle.

3.    Cloth napkin. No need to buy new here. Pretty much everyone has a spare dish rag or dish towel lying around the house, or some “good” cloth napkins that are only taken out for “special occasions.” These are perfect for school lunch. So far, my son hasn’t asked why he carries a linen dishcloth with a 1977 calendar on it, but I’m sure that day is coming soon…!

Yes, that's my mother's calendar dish towel from 1977, now doubling as a napkin in my son's lunch box. Do I get a Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refuse award for this?

Yes, that's my mother's calendar dish towel from 1977, now doubling as a napkin in my son's lunch box. Do I get a Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refuse award for this?

4.    Food containers. My how things have changed just in the past year. Now you can buy stainless steel containers for school lunch. But again, cost is an issue. If you don’t want to spend  $40 for an all-in-one lunch kit or $16 for a stainless steel food container, you can go the el cheapo route like I did.

Three of these glass Pyrex food storage units sell for just $4.99 at a Bethesda Giant Food store.

Three of these glass Pyrex food storage units sell for just $4.99 at a Bethesda Giant Food store.

Unfortunately there are no more of these nifty $4.99 glass pyrex containers at the Bethesda Giant, because I bought out their entire stock!

And here’s  a shot of Big Boy with his lunch bag, which contains some plastic (gasp) Gerber food containers. I love these.  They’re made in the good old USA, they’re  cheap (under $5 for 4 small dishes) and they’re made of #5 plastic, which does not contain BPA. Still, to be on the safe side (because all plastics can leach) I keep these plastic bowls out of the dishwasher and the microwave   I had to search high and low for these – they seem to sell out as soon as they’re in stock, but you can sometimes find them at Target or Buy Buy Baby.

school-lunchphoto

He’s also carrying a more traditional “Green Mom”  accoutrement – a Wrap n’ Mat sandwich wrap, which is made of washable cloth and durable, low density polyethylene (LDPE). These sell for   $7.99 on the Internet, but I bought mine locally at My Organic Market.   When I hit the Wrap n’ Mat website as I was writing this post, I learned that they’ve just introduced little snack pouches, which sell for $8.99 each.

5.    Cutlery. This past school year I packed lunches with our regular cutlery, and unfortunately I regret it because some of our silverware never made it home.  This year I’m trying Sporks !

And I leave you with a picture of my boys’ trusty Crocodile Creek lunch bags being cleaned out. Because this frugal green Mom isn’t planning to buy new ones this year!

lunchboxphoto

This post is for the Green Moms Carnival: Green Schools Edition, which runs tomorrow (Monday, August 10th) right here at OrganicMania.

– Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

Rushing the Door at the “Sneak Peak” of SweetGreen Bethesda

April 29th, 2009

A new eco-friendly sandwich and salad spot, SweetGreen, opened in Bethesda, Maryland yesterday for a “sneak peek” for friends and family. However, passersby were so intrigued by the “green chic” aura of the trendy new lunch spot that the owners quickly gave up on the idea of keeping the party closed and opened the doors to everyone. What a deal. For just a $5 donation to community sustainability group Bethesda Green, diners were able to enjoy salads and wraps featuring local and organic produce as well as all natural yogurt.

You may be shocked: it’s not all organic, and yet I’m blogging about it. Why? If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few years of studying the green and organic market, it’s this: organic does not always mean green and sustainable, and green and sustainable does not always mean organic.

The emphasis at this Green Certified Restaurant is on sustainability. Everything from the menus, which are lined with wildflower seeds so that they can be planted instead of recycled or thrown away, to the compostable cutlery and bowls, to the re-usable items for sale (salad bowls and stainless steel bottles), is carefully designed following sustainable principles.

Greenies may think that’s the best part, but there’s something for everyone: the food I sampled with friends is simply fantastic. Count on about $8 to $9 for a salad or wrap. My favorite? The Curry Gold. Chopped romaine with a kick of coconut, almonds and cranberries, it’s a really unique twist on chicken curry.

With the addition of Sweet Green, Bethesda now boasts a handful of organic, green and sustainable restaurants that didn’t exist a year ago. It’s a great trend, one I see at other spots throughout the Mid-Atlantic. We’re finally catching up to long-time green leaders like Portland, Seattle, Berkeley and San Francisco.

Leave a comment and let me know what you thought of SweetGreen, or if you have tips for other sustainable restaurants. (And if you’re in Washington DC’s Georgetown or Dupont Circle neighborhoods, you can check out SweetGreen’s locations there).

Lynn

Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

How I Learned to Cruise at 99 MPG: 10 Eco-Driving, Hypermiling Tips from Ford’s Hybrid Team

April 26th, 2009

Ford’s hybrid experts and world record hypermiler champion Wayne Gerdes have set up headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia for the “Ford Fusion 1000 Mile Challenge.” They’re pushing the new 2010 Ford Fusion hybrid to go 1,000 miles on a single tank of gas. When I received an invite to check out the action and learn a few tips for improving fuel economy, I couldn’t resist going, despite having to drag my whole family there on a beautiful early Saturday morning.

This video shows some highlights from my “eco-driving” lesson. Using just a few hypermiling techniques, I was able to improve my gas mileage by nearly 10 MPG! I clocked 38.4 MPG prior to my “eco-driving” lesson, and 48 MPG afterwards! What’s more, I actually hit 99.9 MPG on the downgrade of a hill. Now that was exciting!

10 Tips for Maximizing Your Fuel Economy

#1. Reduce Your Speed
The trick to hypermiling? Drive very s-l-o-w-l-y. Speed increases aerodynamic drag (wind resistance) and mechanical friction which reduces fuel economy.

#2 Coast & Glide
Coast to the Highest Point of the Hill and then Glide Down Hills . (You’ll see Tom Rolewiszc, Ford Fusion Hybrid Main Calibration Expert, explain this in the video).

#3 Avoid Using the A/C and other electrical and mechanical accessories
If you crack the driver and back window, you’ll create a cross-breeze. Use of air conditioning can reduce your fuel economy by up to 25% at low speeds.

#4 Don’t Accelerate Quickly or Brake Heavily
This reduces fuel economy by as much as 33% at highway speeds.

#5 Lighten Your Load
Excess weight decreases fuel economy. That’s one reason I was amazed that I still managed to shave 10 MPG off a typical drive , despite the fact that 5 people and 2 carseats were in the car. (I stayed near the posted speed limit as opposed to crawling along, as most hypermilers do).

#6 Take Flat, Smooth Roads

Hilly, mountainous, or unpaved roads reduce fuel economy.

#7 Tune Your Engine
A poorly tuned engine burns more fuel.

#8 Watch the Weather

Did you know you get better mileage on beautiful sunny days than on rainy or snowy days? It makes sense: less resistance against the car, and better traction.


#9 Drive to your furthest destination first.

Then, as you are heading home, stop at the closer destinations in order from furtherst to closest so the car is warmed up for the longer portions of the ride.

#10 Avoid Idling.
Consider shutting down your engine if stopped for more than 7 seconds as that is all the fuel it takes to restart today’s fuel-inject engine

Want to learn more? Check out CleanMPG, a site run by hypermiler champion Wayne Gerdes.

Was it a fun day? Look at this Flickr stream for pix of OrganicMania_DH and the Eco-Kids at the Ford event.

Have you tried hypermiling? Do you have other fuel economy tips? Leave a comment and share!

– Lynn

Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

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

Great Deals on Recycled Toilet Paper & Why TP Shouldn’t Be at the Bottom of Your Green List

March 2nd, 2009

Perhaps you saw the news a few days ago: reports from Greenpeace, publicized in The New York Times, Fast Company, and the UK newspaper The Guardian, which emphasized the importance of choosing recycled toilet paper over “squeezably soft” brands, which get that softness from wood pulp found only in virgin forests.

Going green involves huge changes in buying behaviors: everything from food to clothing to houses, cars, and even toilet paper gets looked at with increased awareness of its ecological impact.

And for many of us — well, swapping out our favorite toilet paper brand is at the bottom of the list. I’ll admit it: I didn’t give much thought to recycled toilet paper, figuring that I’d just wait until the prices came down and the quality came up. Memories of scratchy paper from overseas didn’t do anything to encourage me to check out recycled toilet paper, and frankly, I didn’t realize the extent to which premium toilet paper is taken from old growth forests. (Read more of this disturbing news here).

So I took a fresh look at recycled toilet paper versus conventional, and found big changes in the marketplace. Did you realize you can buy recycled paper for less money than conventional toilet paper?

CVS recently introduced CVS Earth Essentials, recycled content napkins, toilet paper, and paper towels. I decided that at .89 cents a roll, I could spring for one, and put it to the test versus Scott bathroom tissues, available on the same drugstore shelf for $1.29 per roll, and Seventh Generation, available at Whole Foods for $1.39 per roll.

The verdict? Recycled toilet paper has come a long way. Yes, from the perspective of “The Princess and the Pea,” you do notice a bit of a difference, but it is very slight and not nearly enough to merit being called “scratchy.” The quality is equivalent to the type of toilet paper you find in most public buildings. It’s fine.

And it’s really cheap in bulk. After the successful home test, I returned to CVS to stock up. They’re running a sale on four packs of Earth Essentials, now $3.49, on sale from $4.69 through April 30th. That’s a $1.20 savings per 4-pack. But the savings really add up when you buy a 12-pack for $8.99. That’s less than 75 cents per roll. And if you have a CVS “ExtraCare card,” you may reap even more savings. My initial .89 cent purchase yielded a $5 off any $15 purchase, so when I returned to pick up the 12-pack, I added a few other things in my cart and saved even more.

The CVS Earth Essentials toilet paper rated a “Green Tree” stamp of approval from Greenpeace. (Unfortunately the other Earth Essentials products didn’t rank quite as highly as their toilet paper). Check out the Greenpeace guide here. Other good bets for best buys include the Trader Joe’s house brand and Whole Foods 365 brand. And don’t forget, you can often get 10% off a case of goods such as toilet paper at your local market – just ask! My Organic Market offers this discount plus a “best price” guarantee. Other good sources include CSAs, which often stock paper goods too.

So what are you waiting for? Take the switch to recycled toilet paper off the bottom of your list today!

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009