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  • I Haven’t Been Ignoring You

    11/20/12

    Just trying to empower more than just you readers.

    Building momentum around our community takes a village.

    I am very grateful for the talents of many.

    For those proudly using renewable energy, and to all who made the 2x EPA Award Winning  Power To Choose campaign succeed,

    Especially the inspiring team at Sustainable Wellesley, the

    Motivated green parent leaders, students and faculty at Wellesley Green Schools, and of course the

    Dedicated farmers and patrons of the Farmers Market.

    To all of you, I am very grateful.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    National Bike To Work Week

    5/10/11

    Hey this is for you!

    The League of American Bicyclists – national sponsors of the Bike to Work Week – reported that more than half of the U.S. population lives within five miles of their workplace. Knowing that surprising statistic, there is little excuse for folks not to try commuting by bike. Now is the perfect season to bust out that bike, tune it up and give it a go!

    If the week sounds a bit overwhelming, try the Bike to Work Day on Friday, May 20. Why? A study published by the San Diego Association of Governments showed that one out of five people who participated in a Bike to Work Day event became regular bike commuters. Wouldn’t that be ideal on so many accounts?

    Biking is healthy for people and the planet. It allows workers to be more productive during the workday, while reducing the biker’s carbon footprint and saving money.

    Plus, biking is fun, builds morale and encourages camaraderie.

    One idea I recently heard about happens in Chicago. They have these Car vs. Bus vs. Bike Commuter Races which sound like a lot of fun. They all start and end the work commute in the same location but the way they get there differs. Guess who wins every time? You got it, the bike.

    Try biking to school with kids, encourage bike-pools, or take it a step further and organize a bike to school event for all to enjoy. Be sure to figure out appropriate routes and reinforce safe cycling rules with children.

    Think this sounds good but you need to get your bike tuned and remind yourself of a few rules of the road? Check out the League’s Ride Better page for commuting tips as well as some bike maintenance and fix-it information.

    Tread Lighter on your bike,

    -Phyllis, Green Expert

    Sunscreen

    5/6/11

    Our pediatrician used to say that he saw more kids with sunburns after Marathon Monday (end of April) than any other time of year. I guess the sun is pretty strong in the Spring here in New England but because we are just shedding our winter coats, sweaters, gloves and hats we just don’t think about it.

    Since the outdoor sports activities and events are now in full swing, I went out and bought a new sunscreen. I know the usual brands that we have used in the past, but my family thinks some of the environmentally friendly, healthier ones are difficult to rub in. Thus, I am continually in search of the optimal sunscreen.

    As I was leaving the store I saw one and did a quick look for parabens. Since there wasn’t any I bought it on the fly. When I came home I looked at my trusty Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep list — this list is part of a very useful, dynamic database. Of course the 3rd active agreement was one they do not recommend.

    Sunscreen can actually be pretty toxic if it is formulated with certain ingredients. Since we need to be protected from the sun, it is worth spending a few minutes on the site checking the products we already have and then seeking out new ones if those in the closet are too toxic. The site even lists where to buy them.

    In general, sunscreens with active ingredients containing minerals (titanium oxide, zinc oxide, or both) are considered safer for the environment and the body than a sunscreen with chemical active ingredients (i.e. oxybenzone).

    Rubbing those toxins on the body seems and obvious turn off but imagine them running off into the water your swimming in, effecting the ocean life as well.

    Tread Lighter with healthier sunscreen,

    -Phyllis, Green Expert

    HONOR MOM AND MOTHER NATURE ON MOTHER’S DAY

    5/4/11

    May brings many lovely things including a day to stop and celebrate Mothers. There are so many ways to show Mom you appreciate all she does.

    Perhaps this Mother’s Day we can all stop and consider the environmental impact of the gifts we usually give and look for meaningful alternatives instead.

    You know your mom better than I do so give her what she likes best but in a way that has less impact on Mother Earth.

    Some ideas include:

    • Do a job she don’t like to do such as cleaning out the garage – one of my friend Peggy’s favorite Mother’s Day activities.
    • Something vintage
    • Cook her favorite meal or introduce her to a new local, organic, vegetarian dish
    • Make a donation to a cause that is important to HER
    • Take Mom on a walk, hike, or go canoeing for a change but stay local if you can to cut down on your family’s consumption of natural resources.
    • Plant a tree in her yard or somewhere meaningful to her
    • For moms that crave fresh flowers, look for organically grown varieties from nearby nurseries. Search by zip code here
    • One very eco-friendly gift is to get her an energy audit. Practical and money saving for sure; sentimental, maybe not so much.
    • Be crafty and make a customized piece of jewelry for mom. Collect supplies at thrift stores, garage sales or on line at Etsy or eBay and create a unique piece just for her.
    • Fair Trade Chocolate
    • Organic and or local wine/cheese/delicacies’ basket
    • Coupons for doing laundry, or taking the family off mailing lists

    To be honest, moms just want love, and perhaps a bit of peace and quiet.

    Giving Mom one of these simple pleasures is a great way to honor her and Mother Nature at the same time.

    Tread Lighter on Mother’s day,

    -Phyllis, Green Expert

    Sustainable Dave

    4/28/11

    Have you heard about this guy? In 2008 David Chameides collected all of his garbage and recycling in his basement for an ENTIRE YEAR!

    Dave and his friend were talking about throwing something “away” and what “away” really meant. They thought if they could see the stuff they threw “away” then perhaps they would be less wasteful. Thus, Dave decided to keep everything for a year to see how much waste he created and how much he could avoid.

    Thus, he started tallying up things he used every day and putting it in his basement in 3 piles – garbage, recycling, other.

    He didn’t include the family in this experiment, nor did he change his eating habits- except for a few junk foods he gave up as he knew it would lead to waste; plus, it was healthier. It sounds like he was more efficient with his waste than most of us even before the experiment started – tending to eat less packaged food and buying things in bulk.

    He put the food scraps that smell the most in his worm compost bin (except for the usual dairy, meat or fish which he didn’t each much of). He saved boxes, TP rolls, receipts, mail, pizza boxes, glass bottles, plastic bottles; you name it.

    The point to his experiment was to better understand and therefore limit his footprint on the planet as far as his waste stream was concerned. Seeing the consequences, he hoped to help change his ways and open other people’s eyes as well.

    So can you guess how much he saved in the year? Dave estimates it was approximately 30 pounds of trash alone (recyclables he recycled). The crazier statistic I read from an ABC News report was that that is the SAME amount the average American produces in six days!

    Ok, that has got to change. This is a great reason to try the living with less philosophy.

    Tread Lighter producing less trash, PLEASE,

    -Phyllis, Green Expert

    Living Without

    4/26/11

    Some folks that I spoke with were inspired by Earth Day enough to start considering some of the things they could try living without. They asked me where to start so I told them about our journey.

    The first thing we gave up was paper towels. I had been buying paper towel made from recycled materials but one day I just went cold turkey and stopped buying them. We use towels instead and wash them. From there the plastic baggies and wrap went (we use containers with lids instead), juice boxes and individually wrapped snacks as well as all plastic cutlery and paper napkins all never set foot in our home again.

    Not buying (and schlepping) bottled water for some reason was very cathartic. I started bringing my own bags into every store I went (not just grocery stores) and they were all ok with it. I just had to put them in the front seat of the car or near the door to remember to bring them with me.

    We switched to e-billing, invested in recyclable batteries, and took ourselves off the catalogue mailing lists. We were managing WITHOUT all these things.

    One of the goals is to give up all things disposable. This includes diapers (luckily we are not in that predicament any more), pens, razors, cleaning cloths, wipes, and many other comforts of yesterday. Now we feel better adding less to the already overflowing landfills.

    Doing things manually was another step in our journey so we gave up electrical pencil sharpeners, can openers, started walking and biking more.

    Our journey still continues. There are many things we can probably live without but haven’t gotten there yet. For example, our family still uses facial tissue instead of a handkerchief. That one is a bit hard to swallow with children around.

    What can you live without this week? Try something new, it will feel better than you think.

    Tread Lighter with less,

    -Phyllis, Green Expert

    National Hanging Out (your laundry) Day

    4/21/11

    Woops, I missed it. National hanging out (your laundry) day was on Tuesday.

    National Hanging Out Day was created to demonstrate how it is possible to save money and energy by using a clothesline. I have blogged about it before and always find this day a little bit inspiring.

    Organizers of this event, Project Laundry list the top ten reasons for hanging laundry — such as clothes lasting longer; the fresh scent; energy saving, environment preserving and pollution reducing reasons; using the sun as a bleaching agent; and of course saving money.

    They have a calculator to enable folks to find out exactly how much money they can save but they estimate on average we can save more than $25 a month off the electricity bill simply by hanging laundry.

    Some say it is just a short Zen moment in their week when they take the laundry outside to dry. They feel a bit more in touch with nature.

    Maybe your catalyst to hang out is the fact that there are no ENERGY STAR dryers on the market. Or the fact (from Project Laundry’s website) that in the US, six to ten percent of residential energy use goes toward running clothes dryers. Or maybe this one will inspire you: the average American uses more energy running a clothes dryer than the average African uses in a year for all their energy needs.

    Project Laundry estimates that 8% of households line-dry their laundry 5 months a year. They calculated that if the rest of us jump on the clothesline ban wagon doing it for ten months a year, we could avoid 12 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, a year!

    Since some communities prohibit clotheslines mainly for aesthetic reasons, Project Laundry is encouraging the National Hanging Out Day as a time to protest such laws, pushing for “Right to Dry” legislation.

    Get outside, save energy and money, burn off a few calories hanging that laundry to dry.

    Tread Lighter hanging laundry,

    -Phyllis, Green Expert

    Keep On – This Lawn is Safe – No Pestisides!

    4/18/11

    After all that shoe talk last week I hope more folks will consider using less pesticides on their grass. Sounds like a big jump, but really it isn’t too difficult or costly.

    I know because as spring finally came around at our house and we took a look at our lawn, we had a decision to make. The last two years the “greeny” in me took over and we just didn’t really do anything to our lawn. Since it isn’t looking like a pro golf course and others in the household are feeling a bit disgruntled, we looked into a safe organic fertilizing program.

    We started by putting corn gluten meal (what goes in dog food I was told) with 10% nitrogen. It’s a bi-product of the cornstarch industry. It is suppose to work naturally to prevent germination of crabgrass and weed seeds and act as the first layer of fertilization.

    Next we will put down an application of granular limestone to correct the PH of our soil and return the soil’s PH to a healthy level. The lime will decrease the acidity of our lawn, allowing the turf’s roots to draw up the minerals and nutrients. This should create an ideal environment for the grass to flourish.

    Later this spring, during the summer and early fall we will put down a complete balanced organic fertilizer that replenishes the soil naturally.

    Before the winter arrives, we will need to put down an organic winter feed to promote root development and faster spring greenup.

    I read that we will need to put down a micro-organism application as well to safely control grubs which had fun in our lawn last year.

    We are looking forward to a healthier, safer and greener looking yard. Any tricks you have found that work as well?

    Tread Lighter with a safer lawn,

    -Phyllis, Green Expert

    Bag It

    4/14/11

    Is your life too plastic?

    That is what the new movie Bag It asks.

    Meet Jeb Berrier — a non-tree hugger – who realizes how much our lives are infiltrated with plastic in this “touching and often flat-out-funny film”. His inquiry into plastic bags leads him on a full investigation into plastic and its affect on our lives and what we can do to alter this unhealthy addiction.

    Some of the issues the film looks at are:

    Disposables – The luxury of single use disposable products we use all the time (water bottles, coffee cups, plastic utensils and take out containers) have a quick life span before they are tossed and start over-flowing landfills, clog rivers, and our ocean. Since they don’t biodegrade, they break down into fragments that contaminate our natural resources and leads to environmental degradation.

    Bag legislation: In the United States alone, an estimated 12 million barrels of oil is used annually to make the plastic bags that we use. Since many of us view them as disposable, we start the whole clogging, littering effect again. Luckily, some cities across the country are taking note and are beginning to ban them or add fees for using them.

    Waste and Recycling: Did you know that the United States has 3,091 active landfills and over 10,000 old municipal landfills? Hmmm.

    Human Health: The two additives commonly used in plastic — bisphenol A and phthalates — are thought to be dangerous especially since they come into contact with our food, drink and personal care products.

    Marine Debris and Marine Life: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is simply garbage floating for hundreds of miles across the North Pacific Ocean. Much of the plastic that we use ends up on this “trash island” which is estimated to be twice the size of Texas and gets consumed by fish, sea birds and other marine mammals.

    The film will surely make us think differently about the plastics we use daily and how we can make a change.

    Tread Lighter with less plastic,

    -Phyllis, Green Expert

    What Are You Treading On?

    4/13/11

    On a walk in the neighborhood recently I noticed the similarities amongst the front walkways. The mix consisted of clay colored bricks, concrete, and stone.

    What is the most forgiving to the earth I wondered?

    Bricks, although they are made from naturally occurring clay, are formed and dried in kilns that usually use natural gas (or wood fire kilns) which contribute to air pollution. One neighbor had a nice brick pathway that looked a bit more rugged or perhaps mismatched which led me to believe that they were compiled from recycled bricks. If this is an idea you would like to consider, make sure the bricks are hard bricks designed for outdoor use vs. soft bricks that will absorb water and crack or flake when its cold outside.

    One clay type option that is not seen here in the North East much is terra-cotta or adobe walkways. Since these are also made of natural clay but dried in the sun, they are an eco friendly option but due to the fact that they are very porous, I think they will be most successful in dryer climates.

    I read about these waste bricks products called Scenic Scape Brick Nuggets that are old bricks converted into 4 different size nuggets that folks use for pathways as well. These, recycled broken concrete, or recycled glass are nice options if you don’t really need to do a lot of shoveling as the “nuggets” could get tossed around.

    Concrete walkways are common around here. A mix of quarried gravel and other stone materials are used to create the concrete. Mining and crushing the materials requires a fair amount of fossil fuels and in many cases chemical additives are added in to enhance the bonding capabilities. Thus, concrete and other fabricated landscape materials less eco friendly.

    I think finding stones native to your area is probably the most eco friendly option since they come from Mother Nature, don’t require any manufacturing to break them down, or energy to clean or shape them.

    What are you walking on?

    Tread Lighter on your walkway,

    -Phyllis, Green Expert