10 Eco-Friendly Tips for a Greener Labor Day Weekend

September 5th, 2009

It’s hard to believe that Labor Day weekend is here already. The summer has flown by. So here’s wishing you a wonderful long weekend! And to keep it green, following are my top 10 tips for greening your 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 some grilled shrimp? 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 sales on previously frozen wild caught raw shell-on shrimp – $6 off per pound, now just $9.99 per pound instead of $15.99 per pound. It’s delicious – and a sale that Whole Foods seems to run pretty frequently, fortunately. (And if shrimp 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.  

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. Or if you want to splurge, check out Weber gas grills. My local hardware store,   Strosniders is running a big Labor day sale – they’ve got gas Weber grills from $399 up to $2599.


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.



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!)



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!


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!


– Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

Labor Day Image Credit:  AltiusDirectory.com

Eco-Friendly Father’s Day Gifts: 10 Ideas from Four of My Fave Green Dads

June 19th, 2009

With Father’s Day just around the corner, I reached out to some of my favorite Green Dads on Twitter and in the Blogosphere for some eco-friendly gift ideas.  Here’s what four of those   Green Dads  confessed they’d love for Father’s Day.

1.    Michael O’Loughlin of The Better Living Show aka  @molfamily on Twitter is hoping for a reel mower. As Michael puts it, “ My electric one is nice, but not power is even better.  Keeps me in shape also.”

2.    @DerekMarkham, also known to many from his great blogs   Natural Papa and TwilightEarth, has a bunch of great ideas, including  “something to do with shaving (double-edged safety razor or a straight razor – greener than disposables or cartridge razors)”;

3.   Derek would also love ” a solar charger for cell phone or laptop (Solio is a good one);” and

4.    this green Dad  points out that a guy’s got to eat. So Derek says a  “stainless travel coffee mug (save on disposable cups) or water bottle or  some organic Fair Trade coffee or chocolate” might be good options;

5.    and of course Green Dads look great in t-shirts, so Derek reminds us that a nice gift is always  “ an organic cotton T shirt with a ‘green’ slogan on it.” (I like these cute dog-themed soft organic cotton Ts from Fundamentally Dog, a company I did some work for a while back);

6.    NaturalPapa Derek also points out that a bike messenger bag from recycled materials would be a way cool gift;

7.  @GreenDadsBlog is  a Dad with simple desires. He says, “  You kind of stumped me on this one. Personally I’d like to see no cards or gifts purchased, and a simple day spent with family.”

8.  And my children’s very wonderful Dad, aka @organicmania_DH says he’d like some really cool upcycled  or recycled (whatever you want to call it!) ) accessories like these cool DC trolley token cuff links or this neat bicycle chain frame from  ecoartware.com .  (Disclosure: ecoartware is a client of mine).

9.  OrganicMania_DH also says he’s looking forward to a nice dinner out. In past years we’ve enjoyed DC’s 2 Amy’s and  Indique Heights. This year, who knows?  Suggestions welcome!

10. And for those Green Dads who are married to Twitter-addicted Social Media Moms,  we might want to lay off the tweeting and blogging for the weekend!   There’s nothing better than full-on attention from those you love.

Hope you and yours enjoy a wonderful Father’s Day Weekend!


Copyright OrganicMania 2009

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

10 Tips for Eco-Friendlier Fast Food Dining

May 20th, 2008

Let’s face it, it’s the rare person who does not at some point end up in a fast food joint. As we’ve discussed here before, trying to eat healthy & organic while on the go can be a real dilemma.

The fact is, there truly is no Broccoli Heaven. So when you find yourself in a McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Burger King, or other fast food place off the interstate, don’t despair. Here are ten steps you can take to make your dining experience a wee bit more eco-friendly.


1. Bring your own cup.
2. If you didn’t bring your own cup, request a glass or regular cup — you know, the type that can be washed! Otherwise, odds are you’ll be given a plastic disposable cup or “kid cup.”
3. Remember that salad dressing will be brought to you in a plastic cup or pouch unless you request otherwise. You can skip the dressing, or ask for it to be poured directly on your salad. (You might want to ask for half the usual amount!)
4. They’ll bring too much stuff. Ask for just ONE condiment cup instead of TWO.
5. Go topless. Why use lids? Save the plastics!
6. Don’t take a “doggie bag” (often a Styrofoam container) unless you are really certain you will eat the leftovers. Do you really want all those extra calories anyway???
7. Tell your server that you don’t want a straw. No plastic straws!
8. Order vegetarian. Meat products are a significant contributor to global warming. Think pizza, fries, or a garden salad.
9. Bring your own napkins to avoid using paper napkins (keep cloth napkins in your car).
10. Don’t take more plastic cutlery than you need – you’re not setting the dinner table!

Works for me!

If it doesn’t work for you, talk to the manager. Customers have power!

Oh, and to answer my bloggy friends Gift of Green and Julie – with no Broccoli Heaven around, we went to Pizza Hut!