How to be a Green Consumer: First, Ignore Black Friday! (At least on Thanksgiving!)

November 24th, 2011

I’ve always loved Thanksgiving most of all the holidays because of its simplicity. Eating a good meal with family and friends and giving thanks for all we have is a simple, yet profound act.

But this year, something happened on the way to Thanksgiving. Some stores opened as early as 9 p.m. Thankgiving Day, or never even closed for Thanksgiving, according to The Washington Post.  Black Friday sales are morphing into Small Business Saturday sales which are morphing into CyberMonday sales…and then the countdown of xx days to Christmas begins.

Forget the over commercialization of Christmas. That battle is lost. The new battle is over Thanksgiving. Because the fact is, the early promotion of Christmas sales takes the focus away from much that is special about Thanksgiving.

What happens when our focus shifts from giving thanks to preparing for “deals of a lifetime” the very next day?

Do we still give thanks for all that we have?

Or do we start planning our shopping sprees?

Does our mind wander to all that we don’t have…all that we could have if only …if only we get to the stores early enough. Is our conversation around Thanksgiving time about “wants” and “needs” and “deals” rather than thanks?

I thought I was immune to this. After all, I don’t rush out to the stores on Black Friday. Never have, doubt I ever will. Our family traditions used to include football on Friday – and we still try to include some outdoor time, continuing the Thanksgiving tradition of giving thanks for the beauty and wonder of nature.

But this year, it seemed the promotions came early and strong into my email box, and tempted me. Did you know there’s an Iphone app where you can sort all your deals? And even my favorite afterschool Lego program is running discounts, along with plenty of green and organic merchants.

Eileen Fisher Thanksgiving & Black Friday Sale

We’re still looking for a car, and a car dealer sent me a Black Friday savings voucher. I was tempted to start researching the deals in the car on the way to Thanksgiving dinner…but realized I would then fall right into the trap of commercialism, instead of the celebration of Thanksgiving.

I’m not a luddite. I make my living as a marketer, helping companies and organizations bring to market products, services and causes. But I believe that both green marketers and green consumers need to figure out how to take advantage of the Christmas shopping rush without destroying one of the most beautiful and purposeful holidays we Americans still hold dear: Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Table

What do you think? Did you notice a change this Thanksgiving?

This is a post for the Green Moms Carnival on How to be a Green Consumer: Black Friday edition, hosted by Betsy at Eco-Novice.

Today’s a Special Day for Allowance Day: Give to the Max Day

November 9th, 2011

If you’re like most parents, you may dole out your child’s allowance over the weekend. But if you include a charitable giving component in your child’s allowance, you may want to make an exception today. Take Junior aside after school and show him or her the Give to the Max Day website. As  kids say, it’s totally awesome.


Give To The Max Day - Greater Washington Fundraising

Today, more than 1,000 non-profits are participating in a challenge to encourage the DC community to …well, give to the max. In addition to the funds raised from the event, the organizers are offering an additional $125,000 in cash awards, including up to $25,000 for nonprofits with the most individual donors and the most money donated. The individuals who bring the most donors on behalf of their cause can add an extra $10,000 to their donation.  There’s not a better day to make a charitable contribution, particularly if you live in Washington, DC, Virginia, or Maryland.

Not only will your kids’ “charity dollars” go further today than on most days, but the entire giving experience is a lesson in beautiful, intuitive web design and the power of community-based social media.

And you know what else? I have a feeling you’ll end up having one of those particularly awesome parent-child chats. So go ahead, check it out – Give2theMax. Registration takes just a minute — and you guessed it, even that is super cool as you get to create your own page. Check mine out.

Did you participate in Give To The Max Day with your kids? OK, my son is off playing and then to homework….but before bedtime, as a “special treat,” we’re giving to the max! :)

– Lynn

 

 

The Great Green Halloween Grinch

November 1st, 2011

Now that Halloween is over, I’ll confess.  For the past few weeks, I’ve been biting my tongue to keep from sounding like the Great Green Halloween Grinch.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Halloween as much as anyone. Dressing up in costume, trick or treating, and childhood memories make it one of my favorite celebrations. I’ll even admit to owning some hideously tacky Halloween stuff like this “Frank the Monster” (purchased at Lillian Vernon in my pre-green days).

Tacky Halloween Decorations

So what’s turning me into a Halloween Grinch? Waste. Over commercialism.  The virtual disappearance of time honored traditions like Trick or Treat for Unicef and Bobbing for Apples. The appearance of Halloween décor that rivals Tacky, Tacky Christmas decorations.   Retailers shipping back pumpkins – before Halloween – to make way for Christmas décor.

To be sure, there have been incredible strides in making Halloween more “green.”  In just four years, Corey and Lynn have grown Green Halloween from a regional event to a nationwide costume swap and more.

And yet….. during “green Halloween” twitter chats, sustainably minded “green moms” wonder how to “get rid of” all the candy their kids bring home. The SwitchWitch, who takes Halloween candy away and replaces it with a gift, is a popular option. The First Lady suggests letting kids keep their candy for a few days before confiscating it. Dentists advertise “trade in” plans – $1 for each pound of candy turned in. And there are organizations like MoverMoms who collect candy to send to the troops.

Why are we spending so much money on something that we’re disposing of the very next day? I just don’t remember all this angst as a kid. My candy stash lasted for months. If parents talked about getting rid of candy, it went over my head.

This morning, I heard on the news that Americans spent $7 Billion on Halloween candy, costumes, decorations and more.

How much of that $7B could be redirected towards truly important things that we value, rather than items that we throw out days later?

I know, I know…I sound like a Halloween Grinch. Told ya. That’s why I kept quiet for so long.

What do you think about how we celebrate Halloween?

– Lynn

Interested in Greening Your Pet?

October 13th, 2011

Whether you own a pet, are thinking about getting a pet, or have close friends or family with pets, you’ll find some really interesting information in this month’s Green Moms Carnival on Green Pets. (In fact, I think with that description of pet owners, their friends and family, I just described everyone reading this post!)

From tips about adopting shelter dogs (in celebration of Adopt a Shelter Dog Month), to info about the care and feeding of pets, to my own musings about whether pet ownership can be a first step on the path to sustainability – there are a ton of great reads over at Condo Blues today.

Enjoy! And be sure to join the @GreenMoms next month for “How to Be a Green Consumer – Black Friday edition,”   hosted by Eco-novice.

Can Pets, Like Kids, Turn Adults into Greenies?

October 12th, 2011

I’m not a pet owner (much to my sons’ dismay).  So I’ll admit that I was stumped when Lisa of Condo Blues proposed hosting this month’s Green Moms Carnival on Green Pets.

Green pets? Sure, I’ve seen aisles of organic dog food, which made me grumpily think about how American dogs are treated better than millions of humans around the world.

But that was before I learned from Treehugger that “the animals used to make many pet foods are classified as “4-D,” which is really a polite way of saying “Dead, Dying, Diseased, or Down (Disabled)” when they line up at the slaughterhouse. Unless that can of Chicken ‘N Liver Delite explicitly states that it contains FDA-certified, food-grade meat, you should know that its contents are considered unfit for human consumption–but apparently good enough for your cat or pooch.”


Miss Lucy's Dog Treats at Rehoboth's Greyhounds Reach the Beach

This weekend, while I was mulling over my post for this month’s Carnival, I stopped by Rehoboth’s Greyhounds Reach the Beach pet fair to check out what was going on in the world of “green pets.” While there, I picked up some home made dog treats as holiday presents for my brother and brother-in-law. (They aren’t much for gifts, and I’m sure they’d rather have treats for their dogs than for themselves!)

I couldn’t help but notice that there were many “natural” vendors at the fair, like those selling these soy candles.

River Road Soy Candles at Greyhounds Reach the Beach

Then it hit me. Could pets, like babies, become a starting point on the journey to sustainability? Much has been written and entire movements have been formed around the concept of Moms Going Green, or Kids Greening Their Parents. But what about pets?

Can we influence other consumption patterns by opting for simple, natural treats or doggie gifts instead of something made of plastic?

RecycledStockMattedPrintsGreyhoundsReachtheBeach

Maybe that’s what those soy candles and recycled stock dog prints were doing at the pet fair! :)

Let’s hope that after buying a sustainable dog treat, more owners think about treating themselves as well as ….Fido.

Head on over to Condo Blues today, where Lisa has a slew of interesting posts from the @GreenMoms about both Greening Your Pets and National Adopt A Shelter Dog Month. In fact, that pet fair I visited? Turns out it’s held every year as part of Greyhounds Reach the Beach to encourage people to adopt greyhounds. See you next year?

– Lynn

My Subaru’s Totaled, So I’m Going Car-less….For Now

October 10th, 2011

Two totaled Subarus in five years: what are the odds? Thank God, we’re all fine, and no, neither accident was our fault!

Two weeks ago, a Jeep slammed into our 2001 Subaru Legacy. Our four-year-old was in the backseat. Ironically, that’s where his big brother was sitting on Mother’s Day, 2006, when a huge deer ran into the front of our 1999 Subaru wagon. (I was sitting in the front seat, very pregnant at the time. Thank God — and Subaru — we were all fine!)

The insurance company totaled the car because it would cost more than “the car is worth” to fix it. Says who? Talk about a waste, from a sustainability perspective!

So while we will get $9,000 or so to replace our Subaru, it’s hard – no unthinkable – to replace the car we bought new with someone else’s old car.

At first, I took it as a great green challenge to go carless. After all, we live near metro, I walk to my office, and the school bus comes to the corner. It was just the other week that I turned down a corporate Zip Car membership. Maybe time to reconsider?  Or what about BlaBlaCar, a ride-sharing service that cuts carbon – and costs?

But the thought of trekking several blocks with a sick kid in tow to grab a Zipcar to get to the doctors made me realize I didn’t want to give up the convenience of a car in my driveway, ready to roll.  And BlaBlaCar, regrettably, is not yet available in the US.

So now I’m back to square one, thinking about what to do next.

What about you, dear readers? Does your family get by with just one car? How do you do it, when you live outside a city center?  Am I crazy to think about trying to survive with just one family car?  (DH  uses the wagon for his commute).

Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

– Lynn

Green Weekend Ideas: RSVP Now for Bethesda Green Gala

September 30th, 2011

It’s unusual for someone from “the burbs” to hear Washingtonians whispering about all that is going on in Bethesda.

But it’s true.

So I’d be holding out if I didn’t remind you, dear readers, that it’s the last day to RSVP for tickets to the annual Bethesda Green gala, coming up on October 5th, from 6 to 10 p.m. at The Roundhouse Theatre. You can RSVP here.

I’ll be there. Will you?

– Lynn

Back-to-School Adjustments and Homework Hassles. How’s it Going?

September 21st, 2011

I can’t be the only parent who feels like once the kids go back to school, I’ve got a new, demanding job.  Demanding jobs are great, but I already have one!

It’s a lot to deal with, whether you’re

  • helping a child adjust to the new teachers’ styles;
  • figuring out which battles to fight and which to let go;
  • coaching a kid through an ever increasing homework load;
  • stumbling upon an MCPS website mention that the school year has been shifted by one day (with no other notice!); and
  • the list goes on…

Tweeting about Homework Battles

I don’t remember things being like this when I was a kid. Then again, my mother was a divorcee, a working Mom who didn’t have time to provide much oversight of my school activities.   I was a latchkey kid before the term was invented.

There are plenty of kids like that here in Montgomery County, Maryland, where 44,000 students qualify for the free lunch program.  But how do they cope?  As early as the second grade, homework assignments become so complex that it’s a frequent topic of conversation in even the most upscale neighborhoods.

The school system does provide a “homework hotline,” accessible via cable TV — which we don’t have! –  or through the computer — which we try to avoid, due to its distractions.

For many in the more affluent parts of the county, the solution to homework hassles is private tutoring. An increasing number of parents shell out $45 for group tutoring and $75 or more for individual tutoring. And it’s encouraged by some of the teachers (although officially they’re not supposed to suggest tutors, I hear).  I know this is going on nationwide. My friends in San Diego tell me about their “homework nanny.”

And my online grumbling about homework hassles did lead me to a wonderful site called School Family, along with some much needed morale support on a rough day.

How’s back to school going for you? Leave a comment and share!

 

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