Saturday, September 22, 2007

Moving - Update your bookmarks!

Thanks for visiting

I have moved to That's right... my own domain. I know it's annoying to have to update your links and bookmarks, but I hope you'll follow me to I won't move again, promise. I think the new features will make everyone happy.

This site will remain, for everyone to catch up, and so you don't have broken links. There is already a fascinating new post about solar-thermal power. Don't miss it!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday Recipe: Bulgur & Bean Pilaf

Bulgur & Bean Pilaf

1 med onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3/4 cup uncooked bulgur
1 cup water
2 med tomatoes, chopped
1 can kidney beans, rinsed, drained
dash ground red pepper
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese (or soy cheese)

1. Saute onion, garlic, green pepper. Stir occasionally until vegetables are crisply tender. Add bulgur, continue cooking, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Add water, tomatoes, beans, salt and red pepper.
2. Reduce heat to low. Cover; cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes or until bulgur is soft and chewy. Immediately sprinkle with cheese. Cover, remove from heat. Let stand for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Bulgur is cracked wheat, and it has the consistency of oatmeal. So, if you love oatmeal, you will love bulgur. This is one of my favorite meals.

-Land O'Lakes recipe book from grocery store line

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Car-Free Day... Week... World

car freeSaturday is world car-free day. One day out of every year is selected to highlight the idea that it is possible to live without cars. It really is.

In China, cars will not be allowed on Saturday in 108 cities to raise awareness about pollution, and to ease congestion. Only pedestrians, bikes, and busses will be driving on Saturday.
"No Car Day'' will cut 3,000 tons of emissions and save 33 million liters of gasoline, according to the ministry. (that's 8.7 billion gallons)
Some places have been celebrating car-free week. Greenwich, UK, is celebrating by closing the town square to cars, and having a party with art, music, and a beach. Montreal, Canada, is also closing town square for a concert, and they're having hiking and other events this week.

If you're interested, here are 10 ways you can break your auto dependence. Also check out

Britain plans to be entirely gas-free by 2040. It is possible. There are so many options for alternative fuel. It will be nice when consumers have the freedom to choose which type of energy they prefer, and how much they want to pay for it. Good luck, Britain, and thanks for leading the pack!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fall Cleaning

I can't believe I haven't written about my favorite yard tool - my push reel mower! My neighbor has one, and it's so quiet and odor-free that I had to try it. I fell in love instantly. The whirring sound of the blades is actually kind of comforting.

mowerThis mower is so easy to use, even I can use it. When we brought it home, and to this day, my husband and I almost fight over who gets to mow the lawn. I'm not kidding! It goes like this... "I'll do it." "No, that's ok. I can mow it." "No really, you go inside. I'll mow the lawn." Finally we agree to split and each mow half. We've even had neighbors come over and ask if they can push it around, and they reminisce about the good old days.

Once you try one, you'll never want to crank up the gas mower again. The smell of gas and grass is not pleasant, and it's useless energy consumption. The reel mower is so much more fun, energy conscious, good-smelling, and easy. Give it a try.

After searching the internet and garage sales for a used one, we went to Sears Hardware and bought one for less than $100. Do a little fall cleaning and push that gas mower to the curb or the thrift store.

Bioneers Conference in Cleveland next month

bioneers brings together people who are committed to the environment, health, social justice and good living. They have a yearly conference in California, which is "beamed" to satellite sites around the country. We are fortunate that Cleveland is one of these sites! Mark your calendars for Oct. 19-21 to attend the Beaming Bioneer Cleveland Conference at Cleveland State University.

The format is as follows - Local speakers and activities in the morning, California conference beamed in the afternoon. Daily yoga sessions, area tours, and panel discussions enhance the experience. Here's the schedule.

Topics include:
  • Green affordable housing in the city
  • Healthy Workers/Healthy Business
  • Solutions that benefit people, the planet, and profit
  • No Child Left Inside!
  • NE Ohio transportation
  • Plastic from alternative sources (not oil!)
  • Citizen Blogging - featuring terra, not terror
I will be part of a panel on Saturday morning to discuss Citizen Blogging and how bloggers can impact the environment.

I hope to see you there!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Farm Aid

farmaidFarm Aid was started in 1985 by Willie Nelson, Neil Young, and John Mellencamp to raise awareness about family farms, and to raise money for farmers. For 22 years, they've been having concerts to educate people about the value of the American family farm.

This year's concert, held on Sept. 9th in New York City, featured 21 bands. Vendors provided fresh, local food to satisfy the growing demand for healthy, non-factory farm, non-hormone-laced food.

cowsAmerica's family farms face many challenges from bird flu to genetic engineering, globalization to factory farms. We can help family farms by buying local food, teaching kids how to grow food, and being aware of where our food comes from. Factory farms are producing hormone and antibiotic-laden meat and chemically-produced vegetables that have an adverse effect on our health, which costs billions in the health care industry. Helping family farms helps everyone.

Check out Food Routes, or Local Harvest to find farmers markets near you.

Happy Constitution Day

Sunday, September 16, 2007

VegiTerranean, Metro Living, Save the Civic

Yesterday, we had the Akron experience. We toured Akron's Metro Living, saw the opening ceremonies of VegiTerranean (actually opens in late October), and attended the rockin' Akron Civic Theatre benefit concert featuring Chrissie Hynde and Friends.

The Metro Living Tour was interesting, but slightly disappointing for a few reasons. We wanted to take the shuttle, but it never seemed to be available, so we had to drive from place to place. None of the "homes" were taking advantage of advances in renewable energy. There are so many chances to utilize solar power, which will be the norm in 10 years. If you want to be cutting-edge, you've got to reach out to the future. The Northside Lofts were ultimate high-class. There was a TV in every room. Coming from a 1-TV house, this was a little extreme. On a positive note, the color schemes were really nice. Spicer Village will be very cool when it opens in 2008. Rooftop gardens!

Next was the opening of VegiTerranean. We walked up as Chrissie Hynde was putting on an outdoor concert. Her voice is absolutely moving. It was a very energetic event! There was a food sampling expo featuring Akron restaurants. Strangely, it was all meat except for VegiTerranean. If you're having a vegetarian restaurant opening, don't you bring your vegetarian dish? We didn't eat. But, the menu for VegiTerranean was extensive, so it should be a nice place to enjoy a good meal.

It's great to see Akron renovating and trying to rebuild this great city. The views from the Exchange St. dorm make you realize how beautiful our city really is. We have great people here who really care about the city, and their efforts are to be commended. I look forward to seeing Akron's revitalization in the coming years.

The benefit concert was incredible! My husband's cousins are in The Diffi Cult, which opened the show, followed by 6 other bands. (I also really liked Pat Sweeney and The Numbers Band) Then, Chrissie Hynde again. She came out in her PETA t-shirt. It was excellent! The whole crowd essentially had to applaud PETA. (her boots, by the way, were made by Stella McCartney) While I am a Person for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, I tend to disagree with some of the tactics and statements by Peta, so even I was a little uncomfortable (I'll elaborate in the comments). Her set was incredible! Again, what a voice! Finally... Jerry Lee Lewis. They rolled out the piano and the rock legend was escorted onto the stage by Akron legend Chrissie Hynde. His set was so fun and energetic. We had a great view of the shadow of his hands on the piano. What a night! The whole stage was rockin' and people were dancing in their seats. It was a great show in Akron. I hope to see more fun events like this at the Akron Civic Theatre. Thanks to our good family for the tickets!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

What is a Vegan?

What is a vegan? Chrissy Hynde said a lot of Akronites don't know, and she's probably right. In fact, a lot of people don't know, so I'll do my best to explain.

Vegans don't eat or use any products made of, or made by animals. This includes meat, eggs, dairy, gelatin, honey, and refined sugar. Gelatin is made of marrow or hooves; honey is made by bees; and refined sugar is bleached with charred animal bones.

Some good alternatives for vegans include the meatless products that are generally made of soy. In baking, eggs can be replaced by applesauce, bananas, tofu. Soy, rice, and even hemp "dairy" products are good. (check out this video that turned me off milk for good - it's not gross) Gelatin can be replaced by something called carrageenan, which is made from seaweed (gelatin is not a vegetarian food either, so warn your veggie friends when you cook with gelatin). Honey can be replaced by syrups and molasses. Instead of refined sugar, look for pure cane sugar or turbinado sugar. (I've found it really cheap at Marc's) Additionally, "natural flavoring" can include animal-based products, so that ingredient should be avoided by vegetarians and vegans.

Vegans also avoid leather and other animal-based products, and don't use products tested on animals.

Why would someone be a vegan? There are many reasons, usually beginning with animal rights, concerns about factory farms, the environment, and health. Vegan and vegetarian diets have been shown to reduce many health problems, especially high cholesterol because only animal-based foods have cholesterol.

(wiki also does a pretty good job explaining veganism, with some great links at the bottom)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday Recipe: Corn & Potato Chowder

Corn and Potato Chowder
(a favorite at the not terror household)

olive oil
1 cup chopped onion (1 small)
1 cup thinly sliced celery (2 stalks)
4 cups peeled (or not) russet potatoes cut into 1/2 in. cubes (2-3 medium)
3 1/4 cup soy milk or lowfat dairy milk
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed (optional)
1/4 tsp salt
pepper, minced parsley (optional)

*Heat the oil in a 3-4 qt. saucepan. Add onion and celery and saute over medium heat until the vegetables soften, 7-8 minutes, stirring frequently.
*Add potatoes and milk. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender, 20-30 minutes. Mash some of the potatoes in the pot with a potato masher to thicken the soup. Add the corn kernels and peas. Cook just until heated through, 1-2 minutes. Add the salt and season to taste.
*Sprinkle with parsley.

from the Student's Vegetarian Cookbook

We don't use salt or pepper and it's just as good.
The smashed potatoes give the impression of a cheesy soup. Delicious!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sustainable Clothes

For those of us who want sustainable, environmentally responsible lives, we like to consider all aspects, including clothing.

Think about what your clothes are made of ... when evaluating natural vs. synthetic products, a lot must be considered. Pleather is not as long-lasting as leather, but it's cheap and not made from an animal. Polyester is made from petroleum (=oil!). It also doesn't breathe as well as cotton. Nylon is also made from petroleum, vs. wool made from sheared sheep's fur.

bambooSome people are looking for more eco-conscious clothes and finding new (not-so-new) materials such as hemp, soy, bamboo, and organic cotton. They are long-lasting, durable materials and easy to care for.

Many companies, including Great Lakes Brewing Company, are also looking towards these new fabrics as consumers are becoming more eco-responsible. I've been looking into hemp and soy clothes, and found these options for companies to outfit their staff, or sell to customers. Along with suppliers Kami has found (see comments), these companies are appealing, and their t-shirts don't cost much more than a regular cotton t-shirt. seems to be the best option for wholesalers. They have some good options, and put the prices and quantity available right on the website.
Efforts in Canada has a good selection of sustainable clothes, and offers wholesale prices with no minimum orders.
Bamboo Clothes offers a lot of clothing at reasonable prices, and they say their bamboo/cotton blend are the softest t-shirts on the planet (...mmm... tempting). has many styles, and unisex t-shirts range from $16-18 retail. (no new wholesale customers)

One problem is that a lot of these companies are small, to avoid sweatshops and poor quality, so they don't offer wholesale volume yet. The trend is catching on, so look for wider availability soon. Ideal Bite lists several soy clothing suppliers, which seem to be more expensive than the hemp clothes.

Check your label ... are you eco-stylin'?

Chrissie Hynde featured in Vegetarian Times

Chrissie Hynde, lead singer of The Pretenders, was featured in this month's Vegetarian Times. She is opening a new vegetarian restaurant in Akron, called VegiTerranean. It will be a coffee house, bar, and restaurant featuring vegetarian Italian food. Yum! The VegiTerranean preview celebration is this weekend, Sept. 15, and the restaurant will open in October.

In VT, Hynde talks about being a vegetarian for 38 years. She started this lifestyle because of her compassion for animals. We're now learning about how destructive the meat industry is for the environment - it's the #2 polluter behind the auto industry.

Hynde wants to know why there aren't vegetarian fast food restaurants? And why don't they sell veggie burgers at rock concerts? Thanks to her, we don't have to ask why Akron doesn't have a vegetarian restaurant.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Paint-on Solar

Researchers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) have created solar cells that can be painted or printed onto surfaces. Most solar cells now are made from purified silicon, which is not a readily-available product. These new paint-on organic solar cells are made from polymers, which are a less expensive material. Energy is conducted through carbon nanotubes, which are smaller than human hair, and conduct energy more efficiently than copper wires.
“Someday homeowners will even be able to print sheets of these solar cells with inexpensive home-based inkjet printers. Consumers can then slap the finished product on a wall, roof or billboard to create their own power stations.”
Awesome!! I think this could be the future of power.

If you have iTunes, you can find out more about this solar research by typing "NJIT solar" in the search box and listen to the podcasts or watch the videos.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

100 mile diet

One trend among people who want to eat healthier, environmentally responsible diets is the 100 mile diet. Following this diet means you eat foods grown within 100 miles of your kitchen. It reduces pollution from transportation, and generally provides healthier food. (more reasons)

This diet takes considerable planning at the beginning. If you start cold-turkey, you may get frustrated by not being able to find your favorite fruits and vegetables. You have to learn a lot about the seasons, and your local farming community. Alisa Smith and James McKinnon, who wrote a recent book about the 100-mile diet, said they ate a lot of potatoes in the beginning. Finding wheat for bread was difficult in the Pacific NW. They were finally able to find a local wheat farmer.

People find it to be a rewarding experience that becomes kind of addicting. Now, when traveling, 100-mile dieters strive for local food, and really learn about the food and customs of the country they're visiting.

It's a lifestyle change. One that requires flexibility and an open mind. An easy way to start may be a state-based diet, where you eat food only from your state. The goal is to learn more about what you eat, and what you can do to reduce your footprint.

Monday, September 10, 2007


VW offering Carbon Offsets through January

rabbitVolkswagen is teaming up with to offset an entire year of carbon emissions for every car bought between Sept. 1, 2007 and Jan. 2, 2008. The money will be directed to "help reforest areas of the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley (LMAV) in Northern Louisiana."
Not only does this program help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere but it also restores native trees to habitat, provides food for local wildlife, reclaims barren pastureland and increases water security.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Surprise! Food coloring and preservatives are bad for kids

A new study in Britain has found that food coloring and preservatives can increase hyperactivity, including ADHD in kids age 3-9, and also have adverse effects on the general population.

Children tested showed significant differences in their behavior based on whether their fruit drink had added colorings and preservatives, versus those drinks that were more natural. The additive-laden drinks increased hyperactivity.
“It supports what dietitians have known for a long time, that feeding children on diets largely consisting of heavily processed foods which may also be high in fat, salt or sugar is not optimal for health.”

Let's try to eat fresh, natural foods that are healthy and taste good!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Small... Smaller

Check out this ultra-small, ultra-efficient, totally cool toaster-oven/coffee maker/griddle. It's the Instant Kitchen. Perfect for a dorm, apartment, or people who just don't like having a bunch of "stuff" everywhere. It's only $45. (I saw this on Treehugger)

Back to comments: You may notice that I have re-activated comments. I really like getting post ideas from readers. So, I will be "moderating" comments, which means that I read and approve them. I'm following this blogger's philosophy - as long as comments add value to our lives, they will be welcome.
I look forward to your ideas about how to be more environmentally-friendly.

Friday Recipe: Easy Nacho Skillet Dinner

Easy Nacho Skillet Dinner

16 oz. can black beans
16 oz. can kidney beans
15 oz. can tomato sauce
2 cups frozen corn
2 tsp chili powder
2 cups slightly broken baked tortilla chips
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (or soy cheese)

Stir first 5 ingredients together until corn is thawed and everything is heated through. Sprinkle tortilla chips even over mixture. Top with cheese. Cover, simmer 2 minutes or until cheese is melted. (There's nothing green in this recipe, so for variety, you could add a green pepper or something.) Enjoy!

-Altered recipe from the back of a package of frozen corn

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Green Dorms

Many college students are demanding eco-friendly dorms, and colleges are starting to meet that demand with simple changes such as energy-saving light bulbs, low-flow showers, and other high-tech changes.

NPR highlights Pitzer College. Pitzer students returned to school to find organic gardens, buildings built with recycled modular steel, and 80% of building materials found within 200 miles of the campus, which saves on transportation while helping local economies. Dorms feature cross-ventilation, solar power, low-flow toilets, and the campus showcases stormwater recycling and drought-resistant plants. Pitzer's renovations have received Gold LEED certification.

Students at the University of South Carolina have found that it's easy and fun to reduce your impact on the planet - to live "green" in their Green Dorm. The West Quad dorm uses solar panels to heat the hot water, and recycles rainwater to water plants. It was built for the same cost of conventional dorms, and reduces the cost of energy throughout its use. USC's housing director predicts the green dorm to cost 45% less because of the renewable energy. Students noticed the odor-free atmosphere. Carpets were made of recycled material (so they don't give off carbon dioxide), odorless paint was used, and construction workers weren't allowed to smoke in the building.
Buildings like West Quad also enhance and protect ecosystems and biodiversity, improve air and water quality, reduce solid waste, and conserve natural resources. Other benefits include improved individual and community health.
Many students go home with the environment in mind and encourage their families to recycle, and live more eco-responsibly. When I read these stories, I'm always looking for something revolutionary, but these ideas are so simple! Reduce, reuse, and recycle are the prominent themes. They save the universities money on energy, and benefit the environment at the same time.

Here are some easy, fun ways to green your dorm, even if you don't live in a LEED certified green dorm.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Just say no

Your average quarter pounder, according to one Cornell University study, siphons 600 gallons of water, 1.2 pounds of feed grain, and 6 square feet of former prairie land—plus the loss of five times the patty's weight in topsoil—even before it gets slapped on a grill. -Treehugger

If you've ever been interested in becoming a vegetarian, check out this guide. Some good steps: Have a good reason, start by eliminating red meat, get some good recipes.

(sidenote: people are often offended by vegetarianism. When I post about a vegetarian diet, it will be a post of facts and alternatives, just like all the other topics on this blog.)

Bed Nets against Malaria

Researchers in Kenya have found that insecticide-treated bed nets are more effective at reducing Malaria-related deaths by 44% than outdoor spraying of DDT and other insecticides. Making the nets available for free increases the effectiveness of the nets because more families have easier access to prevention.
Increased ITN (Insecticide-Treated Nets) coverage in Kenya has resulted in 44 per cent fewer deaths in children, and increases in the birth weight of babies, according to preliminary data from the Malaria Control Department of the Kenyan Ministry of Health.
Check out Nothing But Nets, a program partnering with the UN Foundation to provide free ITNs to people in Africa.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The US Military and Green Power

Our US military uses renewable energy to save money and resources. They have the manpower to research, purchase, and build eco-technology. Renewable energy would also help when they are on assignment in locations where fuel is scarce. Here are some of the technologies our military is using:

tentPowerfilm solar tent covers. They are able to generate solar power by covering their tent with a "thin amorphous silicon technology."

Aviation Biofuel. The Defense Department is looking for ways to reduce the military's reliance on oil to power jets, ground vehicles, and ships, so it is turning to biofuels as a possible source of energy.

Micro fuel cells. MTI builds fuel cells the size of a phone book, which is a portable source of energy for our servicemen and women. These fuel cells utilize methanol, which is not as flammable as gasoline.

"Efficient in-the-field solar cells." Instead of transporting batteries to soldiers in the field, which is costly and dangerous, soldiers can use solar cells to generate the power they need.
Ground Combat Hybrid. That is, hybrid tanks. BAE Systems designed these hybrid tanks, which have been tested and are planned for production in 2008 as part of the Army's Future Combat Systems.

Soldier Solar. United Solar Ovonic is working on a solar pack that can be worn by soldiers to generate solar power to be used in powering field generators and vehicles.

Hybrid Aggressor. “The Aggressor [is] a high-performance, off-road Alternative Mobility Vehicle (AMV) for military ground exploration and scouting missions." The Army had been exploring fuel cell technology, but has decided to go with diesel-electric hybrid power for the Aggressor.

- earth2tech

Monday, September 03, 2007

Root Cellars

Root cellars used to be part of every home. They are a good way to use the natural ground temperature to store fruits and vegetables. You can bury your cellar two feet underground to take advantage of the earth's cool temperatures. Root cellars also need humidity and air circulation so your produce doesn't spoil.

Root cellars used to be built into hillsides or mounds. They were essentially a walk-in natural freezer. I like the garbage can root cellar. It's a simple way to store enough vegetables to get you through a season.

If you dig a square hole, you can use pallets for circulation and stability. You could also recycle an old refrigerator into a root cellar, provided you give it some good ventilation. There are plenty of old materials and ways to make a root cellar. Check out Earth House for inspiration. Ehow also breaks it down nicely in 8 steps, using an old fridge or freezer.

One way to reduce your impact on the planet is to follow the 100 mile diet, eating foods within 100 miles of your home. The most difficult part of this would probably be the seasonality of fruits and vegetables. A root cellar is a great way to have local vegetables year-round. Another use of root cellars is for disaster prevention. In the event of a disaster, a root cellar and a well-stocked pantry could provide months of food.

Links: This site has a good explanation of root cellars. Here's a little of the history and usage of root cellars. Some approximate storage times can be found at the bottom of this page.

(Thanks to billygoat for the topic suggestion. I hope this helps.)

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Northside Art Walk

We did the Northside Art Walk tonight, and it was a wonderful experience. We enjoyed seeing the art and artists, and we took notice of the fun and creative ways the artists have reused some unique spaces downtown.

The Red Light Galleries are in an old brothel, which made it a perfect space for an art gallery. (the website doesn't do it justice) The artists were able to spread their works through the old brothel rooms. Some of the old wall structure was maintained, with plaster and brick showing through, which gave the building some raw character. Village Green has good pictures of the gallery. Having a downtown studio / gallery allows people to see how artists work and appreciate the process of creating art.

Mocha Maiden had 2 vast, open rooms upstairs. It's part of Akron's Historic District, and the owners have maintained feeling of a historic building, while creating an "atmosphere of stylistic enchantment."

The last (certainly not least) place was the old Ice House on Summit St. The artist, Troy Myers, lives and works in a converted loft. He paints, draws, and makes unique clothing. His home is a site to see in itself, with high ceilings, exposed electrical and pipes, and a beautiful, old-style kitchen with a metal ceiling. His home will be part of the Akron Metro Living Tour on Saturday, Sept. 15th from 11am - 11pm.

It was so nice to see some historic, unique Akron buildings reused for art and public enjoyment. The characteristics of these spaces add so much to the Art Walk, and exemplify the benefits of "reduce and reuse."


I love You can find all sorts of ways to recycle and reuse old goods into cool new stuff. For example, you can make:

robotFree Air Conditioning (if you have well water!)
Credit Card Flower Box Fridge Magnet
Reusable Grocery Bag made out of 2 old Pillowcases
Copper Rain Chain
60 Minute Bookcase
Convert old CD packaging into a flower pot
Soda Can Fireplace
Glow Ground Effects Lights for your bicycle

The ideas are endless. Don't miss the Go Green contest! Check out this site for a rainy day craft project with the kids.

Friday, August 31, 2007


Unfortunately, some readers do not share our desire to discuss positive ways to reduce our impact on the planet. In order to keep this blog productive, I will turn comments off for a while. We're all here to have fun and share ideas. We don't all have to agree with the ideas. I certainly wouldn't insist on anyone flushing their dog's waste into the sewer system, and not everyone likes potatoes in their burritos or cucumber in their water.

I hope you will continue to read. I've certainly enjoyed learning about what other people and companies are doing to make the world a better place, and I hope you have too.

Friday Recipe - Mashed Potato Burritos

Mashed Potato Burritos

4 large potatoes, peeled (or not) and diced
6 large tortillas
1/4 to 1/3 cup milk
grated cheese

1. Preheat oven/toaster oven to 400F.
2. Cover potatoes with water in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer, cover,and simmer gently until tender, about 15 minutes.
3. Wrap the tortillas in foil and warm in the oven.
4. Combine drained potatoes and milk in a mixing bowl and mash well.
5. Divide mashed potatoes among the tortillas, spreading some down the center of each. Spread a little bit of salsa over the potatoes, and sprinkle with the optional cheese. Roll up snugly and enjoy.

(We skipped the oven and just used the microwave - save energy)

- The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet

Bonus: Banana Pudding

Mash a banana in a freezable container and freeze overnight. Pack it in your lunchbox, and by lunchtime, you'll have banana pudding. Fun!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

More on pet waste... CATS

The best choice for cat waste is a natural kitty litter. There are many options - some made of pine chips, newspaper, corn, and wheat. Treehugger highlights Swheat Scoop as a good "green" litter, and readers share other options in the comments.

Clay litters are bad news all around because they must be strip-mined, which is bad for the environment, and it later ends up in the landfill. Plus, the dust is bad for kitty, and you.
Over 2 million tons of non-biodegradable cat litter made from clay that is mined ends up in municipal landfills each year.
Thurston County, WA is concerned with pet waste, and gives suggestions for disposal. One suggestion is to flush dog and cat waste down the toilet. There has been some confusion about toxic cat waste, and whether flushing is a good solution. Do not flush if you buy clay litter. It must be flushable. If so, it is perfectly safe to flush. Some people even train their cats to use the toilet. The concern with cat waste is from feral cats who relieve themselves outside, which will seep into ground water and sewer water.

Here are some other ways to "green" your pets. Some people are actually converting cow poop into energy, which can power an entire farm!

By popular demand... a post on pet waste: DOGS

Dog waste is hard to get rid of because the plastic bags aren't exactly biodegradable. Some say they are (here's one), but as I've learned, our landfills are designed in such a way that nothing really biodegrades. We walk our dog every day, and she usually dumps on the walk, but sometimes does it in the backyard, which is where a waste removal system would be most beneficial. There are a couple of ways to design a backyard dog waste remover: a Doggie Dooley, a home-made dog waste compost, or a flushing system.
The Doggie Dooley is a pre-built waste disposal system that you put in your backyard. You add enzymes to get the stuff to compost, and the rest is history. It seems pretty simple, and you don't have bad smell, bugs, or garden contamination.

dogVisit the City for a step-by-step guide to making your own dog waste composter. All you really need is a garbage can and a shovel. Cut out the bottom of the garbage can, dig a deep hole, bury the garbage can, dump the poop inside, and cover with the garbage can lid. You can add enzymes to start the composting process. Since this method reaches the soil, make sure you bury it away from food gardens.

This site, Pet Habitats, designed a dog waste flusher that may work for you. It connects to the sewer line and uses your outside hose to flush the waste down, bags and all. They say it doesn't clog the pipes. Pet Habitats offers these environmental facts about their product.

I like the home-made composter and the Doggie Dooley. They're both good options for people who want an easy set-up and low cost. Pet Habitats attempts to meet the needs of dogs like mine, who "go" on walks instead of in the backyard. They are all interesting options for getting rid of your dog waste in a environmentally friendly way.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Guest Post on Fair Trade

This is a guest post from my husband, a high school social studies teacher. In his personal studies, he has become very interested in Fair Trade, and loves to share what he's learned.

What in the world is Fair Trade? In actuality, there is no concrete definition of Fair Trade. However, the term generally refers to the movement to ensure that producers in developing countries receive more of the benefits from products sold to consumers.

Companies certified by Fairtrade Labelling Organizations (FLO) ensure a minimum price for farmers, for example. The theory being that the “minimum wage” will help assist those struggling regions to develop into an economically productive region. As a side note, some products claiming to be fair trade might not dedicate themselves to a minimum price, thus allowing adjustments as they see fit.

The Fair Trade market might be small, but it is growing quickly (perhaps more quickly in Europe than America).

Advocates applaud Fair Trade’s pricing. By cutting out the middleman, Fair Trade seeks to relay more of the money back to the producer. In addition, producers learn about the market, trade and exporting. While advocates point to the possibility of Fair Trade’s assistance in eradicating poverty, critics claim Fair Trade’s weak impact, saying that Fair Trade helps a small few, while not really helping the big picture at all. Similarly, critics proclaim Fair Trade as counter-productive by delaying the inevitable—the need for developing nations to diversify their economies.

There definitely exist concrete pros and cons to Fair Trade. There is good reason to think its impact is too small. However, Fair Trade possesses one more unmistakable positive—the power to educate and enlighten. Sure, perhaps its impact is minimal. That’s for the individual consumer to decide. But the fact that Fair Trade is in stores and people are asking questions about Fair Trade creates a discussion.

The true concept behind Fair Trade is to build awareness about the poverty in the world. So maybe you hate Fair Trade and its coffee, teas, chocolates and clothes, but we can’t deny the fact that Fair Trade brings to light a greater question: What are we doing to assist the poor of the world?

Ohio Flooding

Please keep Ohioans in your thoughts as some regions recover from severe flooding and other thunderstorm damage. If you are able, you may consider donating to the Red Cross, who is helping flood survivors in Ohio. You may direct your gift to the Ohio Floods specifically.
Earlier this week, a string of severe thunderstorms caused significant flash floods, mudslides and dam breaks throughout Ohio. As families and individuals wade through deep waters towards shelter, the rains continue. Local chapters immediately opened shelters for the hundreds of people that had to evacuate their flooded homes. Over 700 Red Cross disaster workers are serving hot meals and snacks, as well as distributing clean up and comfort kits to affected residents. - Red Cross

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Vinegar Cure-All

It's hard to find a good cleaning product that is safe for you, your children, pets, and the environment. Many products look and smell clean and pure, but you can never be too sure. And most are needlessly tested on animals. Here's one product you can use with confidence - vinegar!

Vinegar and water can be used with great success to clean just about anything (test a spot if you're nervous). Clean windows, countertops, mirrors, wall smudges - the list goes on. It may smell at first, but the smell goes away. You could also add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to your vinegar spray bottle to lessen the smell. Vinegar is excellent for getting rid of ants or fruit flies - wipe everything in the affected area with a sponge dampened with vinegar-water and they'll be gone before you know it.

Combine vinegar with baking soda and you've got an excellent scrubbing cleaner that's not harmful to the environment, you, or your pets. (use equal parts vinegar and baking soda, and let the foam settle first)

To get rid of weeds, spray the area with undiluted vinegar on a sunny day. They'll shrivel up in no time. (Remember, every chemical you use in your yard could end up in groundwater... would you rather have vinegar, or Weed-B-Gone?)

Apple Cider vinegar can be used to cure anything from allergies to acne and high cholesterol. It can even help dogs and cats.

I put a bowl of apple cider vinegar with a touch of fruity dish soap near my fruit, and the fruit flies are gone.

Bonus - vinegar is very inexpensive, and a big bottle will last a long time!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Make a mini recycled dry erase board

I'm stealing this straight from Treehugger...

Put your old cd cases to good use - make a mini dry erase board. It's great to entertain kids on a long car ride, hang it on the fridge for grocery lists, or jot down quick notes. I love it!

Instructables lays it out for you.

Using Technology to Save Plastics

Many treehuggers are encouraging people to use techie devices like iPods, mp3 players, and other online downloads to save on plastics. If you download a song or cd, you don't waste materials (and money) on the plastic packaging.

Check this out:
every month in the United States some 100,000 pounds of CDs become outdated, useless or unwanted. Every year, more than 5.5 million software packages go to landfills and incinerators. -earth2tech
Computer software is another element that is being moved to the web almost entirely. By the time a CD-based software program hits the shelves there may be updates, so you can save packaging, and maybe some money, by buying software online.

At my house, we have just moved from the VHS tapes to DVR and I'm excited about not having to buy tapes, and throw them away when they get overused. We record every episode of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, so we've gone through a lot of tapes in 3 years (when we got cable). With the DVR, we don't produce excess waste, and it saves energy because the "box" and the VCR can be turned off, and still record our 2 favorite shows.

Other technology like the TiVo/Amazon Unbox is similar. You can rent movies that download directly to your TiVo. Slightly better than Netflix (although more expensive, I think), this saves on production and transportation entirely. Netflix is competing by offering "Watch it now," where you can watch movies on your computer.

The wireless competition is good for us reducers. But I like to keep the end result in mind. The computer, tv, and mp3 player will eventually run its course. When that happens, be sure to recycle it - Earth 911, Dell, Techsoup, etc.

Penguins at the Akron Zoo

Akron Zookeepers let the new penguin chicks choose their own names! The zoo held a contest for people to submit names for the Humboldt Penguin chicks, and received over 640 names. The zookeeper wrote the names on a paper fish for the penguins to select. They chose:

Poquita - "Little one"
Aletta - "Winged one"
Fausto - "Lucky"
Guapo - "Handsome"
Humboldt penguins are warm climate penguins, unlike their Antarctic relatives. Humboldt penguins are commonly found in more temperate cpenguinslimates like Peru and Chile.
They are an endangered species, with some estimates giving them 10 years of existence. Akron Zoo worked with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Humboldt Penguin Species Survival Plan to breed the chicks.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Saturday Toilets and Scooters

My toilet was leaking from the tank to the bowl - wasting water and money. So, instead of messing with the rusty, corroded old tank pieces, I replaced the whole toilet tank contraption. No more float ball for us. A few observations from the experience - if your toilet is leaking, you should fix it to save water; "hand tighten" is different for plumber hands and little girl typist hands; I now understand why plumbers charge $100+ an hour; it is possible to fix a toilet yourself. Anyway, our toilet is no longer leaking, and it's all cleaner than it was before.

After fixing the toilet, we drove to Cleveland to check out some scooters. I've always loved motorcycles, but they seem a little dangerous. I recently discovered how economical scooters are on gas. They get over 90 mpg!! So, we're looking into getting one for my daily commute. That way, I'll take the 100 mpg scooter, and my husband can drive the 42-44 mpg hybrid. Scooters range in price from $1,500 to $4,000+. We went to Pride of Cleveland Scooters in Lakewood to check out the Bajaj Chetak, Genuine Scooter Buddy, and of course, the Vespa (just to look at, not to buy). Scooters have plenty of storage, and the one I'm thinking of gets over 100 mpg, has a cell phone charger so I don't have to charge at home, and goes up to 60 mph. It weighs about 200 lbs and I can hold it with one foot on the ground with very little effort. We also checked out the Honda Metropolitan, but it just isn't the scooter for us. I think I'll go with the Genuine Scooter Buddy.

Driving around Cleveland neighborhoods was fun. My husband loves dive restaurants, so he kept reading the names of the restaurants as we passed - "Old Fashioned Hot Dogs," "Joe's Hot Dog," "Hot Dog and Chili," everything "hot dog." It's so interesting to see the different places and wonder about the people who live there. We passed Arabic neighborhoods, the Cleveland EcoVillage, a Jerusalem jewelry store next to a Middle East eatery, Irish pubs, poverty, junk yard dogs, and lots of stuff we don't see in Akron.

Friday, August 24, 2007

More innovations from Wozniak

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is building an energy-efficient house. His design ...
... uses the right kind of wood that serves as a heater and as an air conditioner, combined with some other techniques in how the wood is assembled to operate energy life pressure. You don't have to add energy into a house after you build it. I love that concept. It's like the way I used to make computers. I want to build it myself.
His home will be built from Southern Yellow Pine, which maintains a temperature of 71 degrees. He said that more Souther Yellow Pines are planted each year than are cut down. Read this article to learn more. This engineering is fascinating - it is well worth your time!

Wozniak makes some good points here.
One aspect of conservation is to use less so that there is more to go around, either to more people or for a longer time. I disagree with this concept pretty strongly. Personally I want to conserve but I wouldn't push that concept on others as a "right" way to live. I only want to serve as an example. I don't want to tell others that they are bad people or doing "wrong" things. That's not a good way to keep open communication.
It's definitely a good idea to live by example, and to share ideas about what we're doing to reduce our impact on the environment. Pick what works for you, and do that. You'll save $$ and feel pretty good, too.

Friday Recipe - Cucumber Water

Cucumber Water

Add some cucumber slices to your ice-water for a refreshing change.

Stay cool!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

No Left Turn

Here's a fun, challenging way to save gas - avoid left turns! Left turns use more gas by idling while you wait for an open spot to turn. UPS is reorganizing its delivery routes to minimize left turns, hoping to save money and avoid accidents. The environmental benefit is an added bonus!
"Everyday drivers can adopt some of our best practices to ease their pain at the pump, reduce exposure to accidents and lessen their own environmental impact," said Robert Hall, UPS's fleet environmental manager.

With a travel makeover from UPS, a family of four recently shaved 84 miles a week off its driving. Using the routes mapped out by UPS, the family discovered it could save $3.69 a day, or almost $1,000 a year, on weekday travel alone.
$3.69 a day? That's $25 a week!

Plan ahead to try to save gas (and $$) by combining errands and reducing left turns at the same time. Remember, too, your car uses more gas to idle for 10+ seconds than to turn it off and back on.

Corn is not the answer

In the search for alternative fuels, ethanol creates a lot of discussion about its potential to generate cleaner, renewable fuel for cars. This is great. The discussion gets us moving in the right direction. However, using alternative fuel should not mean higher food prices, crop soil destruction, and forest clear cutting (to make more land to grow corn). A good alternative to using fresh corn for ethanol is to use cooking grease, and turn it into some form of biodiesel. Alternative fuel entrepreneurs, a.k.a. hippies, have been using grease in their cars for decades.

Another solution to the renewable fuel puzzle may be sugar cane. To succeed corn, it should be cleaner, cheaper, and not destroy land in its wake. Here are a few sugar positives:
  • "it's also easy on the atmosphere, releasing a fraction of the carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases that add to the world's steamy greenhouse"
  • "making sugar ethanol requires only a fifth of the gasoline and diesel it typically takes to make fuel from crops like corn"
  • Brazilian sugar cane is "efficient, brewed without the official price props or government handouts that are common in Europe and the United States"
sugar caneOpponents fear sugar cane may present many of the same problems as corn - namely the clear cutting forests and destroying native crops to make room to grow sugar cane. It may also eventually force farmers to grow more sugar to meet demands, driving up the price of food crops. However, sugar cane doesn't grow well in rain forest conditions. "To show they're going the extra mile, many [sugar cane companies] have signed a pact to gradually put an end to the slash-and-burn method of harvesting that has been a sooty hallmark of sugar cane farming." With this approach in mind, sugar cane may be better than corn ethanol. Either way, let's keep this discussion going.
- Newsweek

We're a tough crowd - those of us who want alternative energy that doesn't do more harm than good to the environment. (My favorite solution is still an electric car that you plug in to your solar-powered home. I'm a dreamer.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rubber Sidewalks

rubberwalkAmerican company Rubbersidewalks has created a (I think) brilliant product. They recycle car tires and make rubber sidewalks out of them. Why? The rubber sidewalks allow tree roots to breath and get water, so they don't pop up through the sidewalk and cause all sorts of damage and unsightliness. Saving trees and city sidewalks... what could be better? They save money and keep tires out of landfills too!

Other benefits:
The reversible pavers don't expand in hot weather, and they absorb and retain less heat than concrete. The system has been freeze-thaw tested according to ASTM C1026 with good performance characteristics exhibited, and is also ADA compliant for pedestrian and wheeled traffic. While the pavers aren't considered porous themselves, the system provides immediate drainage at the module seams.
Washington, D.C. tested it last year and found that, although it costs more initially, the rubber sidewalks will save money, trees, and resident complaints, and it won't have to be replaced for about 14 years - 3 times as long as concrete. Part of the high cost is due to the fact that the company is located in California, so shipping is a big factor. They are hoping to open a New York location to spread the goodness.

Excellent innovation!

cool off: Drink cool liquids and eat cool meals during the upcoming hot & humid weather.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out

wormsWe have recently discovered the benefits of composting. I had been thinking about it for a while - every time I threw a banana peel into the garbage -there's got to be a better use for this. So, we looked more into it at the Burning River Fest. The people from The New Agrarian Center were very helpful, as was the guy from Great Lakes Brewing Company. Both are master composters.

Here's what we did - it's pretty simple. We bought a storage container (a big Rubbermaid one), some mesh screen, organic dirt, and 1,000 red worms. Drilled holes in the container - worms need to breathe air - and filled it with 6 inches of organic dirt and wet strips of newspaper and computer paper. This bedding is supposed to be moist, not dripping wet. The compost bin was set up in the basement, to avoid smell and dog curiosity, and so it could be bigger than under-the-sink. We left the light on for the first week to discourage the worms from escaping. Next, we collected all of our food scraps - banana peels, strawberry tops, bell pepper cores, onion peels, coffee grounds, etc. - and buried them under 2 inches of bedding. Now the worms take over. We're supposed to put the food in a different place each time and add new bedding every 2 months. (Don't put meat in your compost - it'll attract rodents)

What's the benefit of having a pound of red worms chewing up your food? Well, the whole process creates worm castings, which is this magical organic fertilizer that you can use in your garden. Essentially, it's natural recycling. We eat the food, feed it to the worms, they turn it into fertilizer that we'll use to grow herbs, which we'll eat in the spring. Aside from the initial set-up, it doesn't take a lot of work to maintain, and in about 4-6 months we'll have some pretty awesome soil for our garden.

Wikipedia does a good job of describing vermicomposting, or you can Blackle it. Worms Eat My Garbage is supposedly the definitive composting guide. The Village Green does outdoor composting, which is an excellent way to get rid of weeds and fallen leaves. If you do start a compost bin, don't dump your worms in the garden - red worms are not native to North America, and are an invasive species, which can threaten other earthworms.

(Here's the rest of the worm song)

Cleveland EcoVillage

The Cleveland EcoVillage is constructing Green Cottages at Pear Ave and W 58th St. The homes will have a new "green design," sell at affordable prices, and have excellent energy efficiency. Click the picture for details about their eco-design.

The cottages were designed by the Cleveland Green Building Coalition's Emerging Designers program. Heating costs will be less than $400, and electric will be about $250 per year. Green Cottages will be near the Rapid Station, churches, community gardens, schools, shops and restaurants, to encourage residents to walk more.

The EcoVillage is thriving around the concept of rebuilding a community to be pedestrian-friendly, and ecologically sound. The area is built around the Rapid transit station, and is full of community gardens and outdoor activities that residents love. Homes have superior insulation to conserve energy and save money.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Paper or Plastic: Not

Which is better - paper or plastic? It seems like paper would be the better choice because it feels more natural, so we think it will biodegrade. On the other hand, plastic takes up less room in the landfill. A lot of elements must be taken into consideration when choosing which bag to use at the grocery store.

  • Processing trees into bags requires a lot of energy
  • Higher transportation costs because of size (to & from the store, to landfill)
  • 1/2 of landfill space is taken up by paper
  • "14 million trees in 1999 alone were cut down to manufacture the 10 million paper grocery bags used by Americans"
  • Plastics are the waste products of the oil refining process (when considering the impacts of plastic bags, also keep in mind the impacts of oil extraction)
  • Require less energy to produce than paper bags
  • Take up less space in the landfill
  • Marine life is threatened when they ingest plastic bags, which become lodged in their throat or stomach and cause starvation
  • Can clog sewer pipes, which lead to standing water and health problems
So which is better? Plastic requires less energy to produce, and takes up less room in transportation and in landfills. But, once they're here, plastics take hundreds to thousands of years to biodegrade. Paper requires cutting down trees, and takes up more room in a landfill. The biodegradability may be a factor, however, today's landfills are constructed so that nothing biodegrades because materials are cut off from air and water supplies needed to biodegrade.

Solution: buy a reusable bag, and reuse it. Keep your bags by the door or in the car, so you remember to take them with you. Many stores offer a discount if you reuse, and you've done a lot to reduce waste in your community. (I wonder when stores began providing bags to people, and passed the expense onto the consumer.)

This doesn't just mean plastic and paper grocery bags. Consider ziploc and brown paper lunch bags. They have an impact too. Get some reusable storage containers (Glad and Ziploc make excellent ones that are cheap and recyclable), and a cool lunchbox instead of creating waste every day. It'll save you money, and help the environment.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Month in Review

I've been writing this blog for exactly one month, so I thought it would be fun to have a quick look back. I started this with the intention of sharing positive stories about the environment, ways to live a "greener" life, be healthier, and appreciate nature. I did it because I love learning new things, and to learn something good every day has been so refreshing for me. I expected to post once a week, but I've been posting every day! That's a lot of good news.

My Favorites
Things I've Learned
  • Lavender oil is great, but lavender mixed with eucalyptus may be better because bees aren't attracted to eucalyptus (we haven't been stung, but I notice bees around the Lavender plant a lot)
  • Green Clean for Drains
  • Turn a Garbage Strike into something good
  • How to get rid of Japanese Beetles
  • That's certainly not all I've learned, but it's a start
What are your favorites?
Things you'd like to see more of?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Fun facts to save energy

Your car uses more gas to idle for +10 seconds than it does to turn it off and back on again. conserve: turn your car off if you're in a traffic jam or stuck at a long light.

Appliances that are "off" still use energy. reduce: Unplug large appliances (fans, toasters, heaters, laptops, etc) when you're not using them.

To disinfect kitchen sponges, microwave them for 2 minutes. reuse: Use sponges instead of paper towels for cleaning.

It takes more energy to leave lights on than to turn them on and off (popular misconception). use less: Turn the light off when you leave the room.

Running the water while you brush your teeth wastes about 5 gallons of water. (2 minutes, 2.5 gallons per minute). be efficient: Turn the water off when you brush your teeth or shave.

Eco Living

prefabPowerPod has created a super ecologically-friendly house. The roof is designed with solar panels, and they bounce sun off each other to ensure maximum exposure and absorption of the sun. It funnels rain for collection and reuse, and the solar panels heat the water. So far, no carbon use.

These pre-fab homes have extra high ceilings with plenty of windows to let in a lot of natural light, and they're well-insulated so you don't loose a lot of heat or cool. Extra thought went into the technology of these houses, including heated floors with "a radiant heating system that circulates hot water through insulated subflooring."

More pics here! More than just pods!

Friday Recipe - Vegan Snickerdoodles

Vegan Snickerdoodles

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tsp baking powder
1 sick vegan margarine, softened (try Willow Run soy margarine - it's awesome)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup vanilla soymilk
1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup sugar
3 TBS ground cinnamon
(can also add nutmeg or alspice)

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Cookie Dough: Whisk together flour, cornstarch, and baking powder in bowl. Beat margarine in separate bowl with electric mixer until soft. Add sugar, and beat until fluffy. Beat in soymilk and vanilla extract 30 seconds or until smooth. Add flour mixture, and beat 30 seconds or until smooth.
3. Cinnamon Sugar: Combine sugar and cinnamon on large plate. (It makes a lot, so keep it in the fridge for the next time you make these cookies, which might be soon!)
4. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll each ball in Cinnamon Sugar, and place 1/2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until cookies look dry on tops and are lightly browned on bottoms. Store in airtight container.

per cookie: 49 cal, 1G protein, 1.5G total fat, 9G carb

-Vegetarian Times

Vegan foods have no cholesterol because cholesterol only comes from animal products (meat, eggs, milk, butter, cheese, etc). So, if you have high cholesterol, consider eating at least 1 vegan meal a week, and switch to soymilk and soy margarine.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Burning River Fest - Best Festival Ever

IMG_8118We went to the Burning River Festival on Saturday and it was the best festival ever. It was on Whiskey Island in Cleveland and the weather was perfect! There were vendors from Whole Foods, Great Lakes kegs of course, Green Energy Ohio, the Cleveland Co-op, Nature Center at Shaker Lakes, The New Agrarian Center, and so many others. Everyone was fantastic and the food was great. I missed the Great Lakes ice cream, but was treated to chocolate-covered strawberries for dessert!

We learned about composting, the Ohio Solar Tour coming up October, fair trade, Reduce - Reuse - Recycle, etc. More on all of those topics soon!

There was a lot of awareness-building, educating people about reducing their footprint on the planet. The whole festival was well organized with something for everyone and the atmosphere was so positive. We bought an upside down tomato plant. They grow well because no ground-based bugs eat them. I'll keep you posted.


Plastic bottles

We're learning more and more about how much harm plastic bottles are causing our planet and our people every day. Not just water bottles - this includes pop, juice, and even baby bottles.

As the popularity of bottled water rises, so do cases of tooth decay for young children. One reason is because they miss out on the fluoride that cities add to tap water.

Baby bottles contain a harmful chemical, which could be causing "prostate cancer, breast cancer. They (children) become hyperactive. They show learning impairment. It's a poster chemical for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder." Unfortunately, "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found BPA in the urine of 95 percent of people it tested."

Plastic bottles are made with a chemical that causes reproductive harm to women's bodies. The chemical seeps from the bottle into the beverage, into the human. "That damage is a possible predictor of reproductive diseases in women, including fibroids, endometriosis, cystic ovaries and cancers."

Bottled water is a fast-growing consumer item. Last year, Americans spent $11 billion on bottled water. Unfortunately, the bottles often end up in the landfill. "Only 14 percent of water bottles are recycled."

The solution
It's nice to recycle, but we've got to Reduce and Reuse. Get a reusable water bottle and fill it at home using your tap or your water filter pitcher. This will reduce the amount of plastic that needs to be produced for your drinking convenience, and will also save you a lot of money. I couldn't fathom spending $2.50 a day for 2 bottles of water. I get mine essentially for free.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Pronounceable Diet

foodI try to follow what I call the Pronounceable Diet. That means that I try not to eat anything I can't easily pronounce, specifically, things like TBHQ (tert-Butylhydroquinone), acesulfame potassium, cochineal, mono or diglyceride, etc. The purpose is to avoid un-natural chemicals in what I eat.

Do you even know what's in those things without looking them up? Were you aware that cochineal is a red coloring that's made from insects? Did you know that mono and diglycerides can be made of animal products? Bad news for vegetarians. There are so many preservatives and chemicals in today's food, it's no wonder we have the health problems we do. (foreign food is excluded from The Pronounceable Diet)

Instead, I try to eat fresh food. I make nearly everything myself, and I read every label and try to buy things with fewer than 10 ingredients to get the least processed food I can. Not only does the Pronounceable Diet have fewer preservatives, fresh food tastes much better! Next time you're grocery shopping, check out the labels. It's not a pleasant surprise.

Also, don't eat things with numbers, like red #40. If there's a number sign, it shouldn't be eaten.

(The picture is from The Onion)

Green clean for drains

Here's a good way to clean your drains - as a preventative measure, or if they're clogged. We tried it last night and it really works!!

1/2 cup baking soda
1-2 cups cheap household vinegar

Pour the baking soda down the drain, followed by the vinegar. Put a plug in the drain and fill the sink with water. Wait a few minutes, then pull the plug and let the water push everything down the drain, cleaning as it goes. Awesome! -Heloise

(more on the magic of vinegar later)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Thanks Betty Sutton

Congresswoman Betty Sutton introduced legislation to increase federal penalties for dog fighting. This bill has 9 co-sponsors. People care about dogs. The same legislation has been introduced in the Senate by John Kerry.

There are so many loopholes in the current dog fighting laws that people can easily slip through. Spectators are currently not open for prosecution. They are the reason dog fights happen, so they are just as bad.
“My legislation will close these loopholes and make our federal animal welfare laws more comprehensive by ensuring that anybody who knowingly sponsors, exhibits an animal in or views a dog-fighting venture can be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. My legislation also ensures that it is illegal to buy, sell, possess, train, transport or deliver any animal specifically for the purpose of participating in a dog-fighting venture,” Sutton said.
There could be tens of thousands of people involved in dog fighting in the US every year. Even in Ohio, dog fighting is a popular activity. "In March, a federal grand jury in Dayton, Ohio, indicted nine people on 45 counts for their roles in the operation of an extensive, multi-state dog-fighting ring." NE Ohio has also seen some dog fighting and cock fighting cases.
The legislation will also delete provisions in current law requiring prosecutors to prove that animals crossed state lines to fight and increase the penalty for dog fighting from a maximum three-year prison sentence to a five-year prison sentence.
It should have a much longer sentence, in my opinion - participation in dog fighting unveils some serious psychological problems, and animal abuse often leads to domestic violence and other crimes.

Dogs are so amazing and should be treasured for the joy they bring people. I hope this legislation does a little more to deter this vicious activity.

What is yogurt?

I had to ask because the airport security took my yogurt when I flew to Baltimore, and I wasn't sure if it was a liquid or solid. I don't think they should have taken it for several reasons:
  • it's so questionable
  • it was sealed
  • I purchased it with my breakfast at the airport.
It was my lunch, so I had to buy something else inside the security checkpoint.

Poll results: 4 solid, 1 liquid

No A/C for me

Here are some creative ways to stay cool without using the air conditioner. Save energy and money!

Cool ideas:
  • Close blinds and windows during the day, open them at night (if it's cool out)
  • Plant trees for shade
  • Hang your laundry out to dry
  • Utilize ceiling fans - a little air flow goes a long way
  • Eat light, cool meals or grill outside
  • Take a cool shower
  • Make a solar oven
  • Spritz yourself with some cool water (or even lavender water)
  • Hang a wet sheet in an open window
  • Go to the movies - it's always a/c overload at the theater

Friday, August 10, 2007

Burning River Fest Saturday

Saturday, August 11 from 1-9:30pm is the Great Lakes Brewing Company Burning River Fest.

With the goal of raising awareness of environmental issues that affect our region and the Cuyahoga River ecosystem, the annual Great Lakes Burning River Fest educates families and the community on how to sustain a cleaner and healthier environment through interactive programs, music and art.
Location: Wendy Park at Whiskey Island
off the Edgewater Park Exit in Cleveland
$7 adults, kids 10 & under are free

Friday Recipe - Open Face Tomato-Basil Sandwiches

Open-Face Tomato-Basil Sandwiches

1 1/2 cups packed fresh basil
1 1/2 TBS grated Parmesan cheese (or soy Parmesan)
1 1/2 TBS olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
3 TBS nonfat plain yogurt
4 English muffins, split
1 large ripe tomato, thinly sliced

Blend basil, Parmesan, olive oil in food processor or blender until well combined. Add yogurt and process until smooth. Season with salt & pepper.
Preheat broiler (toaster oven works great to save energy & keep kitchen cool!). Place muffins on baking sheet. Broil 1-2 minutes, or until slightly toasted. Spread each 1/2 with basil mixture and top with several tomato slices. Broil 1-2 minutes or until heated through.

203 Calories, 7 G protein, 7 G total fat, 29 G carb, 2 mg cholesterol, 354 mg sodium, 2 G fiber, 3 G sugars.

- Vegetarian Times

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Smart University Dining

As students are becoming more concerned about food quality and sustainability and nutrition issues, universities are challenged to adjust their menus to fit the needs of their student population. There are two common options for sustainable eating - organic and local. Organic food is grown without the use of chemicals and pesticides. Local food might not be organic, but has a smaller "footprint" because it travels fewer miles, and it supports the local community.

The University of California, Berkeley has committed to organic salad bars in their dining halls. The largest dining hall on campus, and the three others, have certified Organic salad bars. They have a separate prep station, and the organic veggies are not usually mixed into other meals. Most of the salad bar food comes from a 150 mile radius (sounds local to me).

Kenyon College in Ohio uses local food, including a student-run farm right on campus. Check out Kenyon's Food for Thought, a program designed to help local farmers and provide quality food at the same time.

Duke University also uses organic and locally grown food. About 20% organic and 35-70% local food can be enjoyed at Duke. Green Mountain College has a Farm and Food Project, which focuses on local foods. They have a student run farm, but like many small farms, they aren't pursuing organic certification because of costs, and limited options. Plus, they say people know how the food is grown and they trust the students. They do, however, run their greenhouses on solar and wind power, and students can "participate in our internship program with the vineyard, farm, and agricultural museum at Brunnenburg Castle in Italy." Excellent!

-University Business

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Painted Black

Many conservationists have been urging Google to transform to an all-black screen to save over 750 megawatt hours of electricity a year. Google does some excellent work in the alternative energy field, so I'm surprised they haven't jumped on the opportunity. An independent company in Australia has created a black-screen version of Google called Blackle. It's a Google powered search engine that will give you the same results as Google, but will save mega energy. Find out more.

Make your homepage so that every time you launch the web, you save a little energy and remind yourself of the need to save even more.

Japanese Beetles

Many of us have the Japanese beetle plague. They're attracted to roses, and go on to consume our flowers and trees. So, how do we get rid of these nasty creatures? I've searched for some natural remedies, and this is what I came up with:
  • They arrived here by boat. In Japan, they aren't a problem because they have natural predators that don't exist here.
  • They're here to stay. We can't kill them all, so we have to find a way to avoid them.
  • Japanese beetles are originally grubs. So, you could start by getting rid of grubs.
  • "Beneficial nematodes, insect-eating nematodes, microscopic parasitic roundworms, seek out grubs in the soil." Milky spores also target grubs. - source
Some solutions:
  • Plant greenery that Japanese beetles don't like (list here)
  • Don't plant things they do like (roses, Japanese Maples, etc)
  • Plant a lot of garlic - Mother Earth News
    (Garlic will ward off many predators, and is also great for cooking)
  • Make a spray out of garlic and water. Let the garlic soak, and then spray the bugs. If you need it a little stronger, add cayenne pepper
  • White-flowering geraniums and zinnias are also good. Yarrow also repels bugs, and can help other plants grow
  • Consider an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. "IPM uses biological, cultural, mechanical, and chemical controls to keep pest populations below levels that cause economic damage."
  • Use traps (the bags they sell at Lowe's, etc). They attract more beetles, but most will end up in the trap. Change it frequently because they start to smell bad.
  • Plant catnip near roses to repel Japanese beetles (this is my plan for next year - lots of catnip and garlic)
  • More ideas and list of plants here.
Good luck!

Make the most of it

A garbage strike in Vancouver, Canada, has had some interesting results. Workers have been on strike for a week, and instead of complaining, residents are recycling more and many have started composting. While the city works on ending the strike, it is also encouraging people to recycle to reduce the amount of trash they accumulate.

Here are some of the things the city has suggested, but I think we could all try some of these to reduce our impact:
an environmentalist's dream: separating wet garbage, crushing cans, adding grass clippings to the compost, letting grass grow longer (and setting your mower to mulch instead of throwing grass away), and put fruit and vegetable waste in the compost.
Will these waste-reducing residents hamper the striker's leverage? Possibly. If people use less, reduce their garbage, and learn to recycle and compost, the garbage collectors may not be as critical as they thought. The garbage strike won't be fun long-term, but it may get people to think about their consumption, and where it all goes.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The dangers of coal

Here's another great reason for the country to move away from its dependence on coal. A coal mine in Utah has collapsed after a 4.0 earthquake, leaving 6 men trapped inside. This mine is southeast of Salt Lake City, in the desert of Utah - a great place to generate solar power. Coal-powered electricity is not only dangerous to the planet, but also to humans, in so many ways.

I hope those men get out alive.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Southern Ohio

IMG_8072I graduated from Ohio University, and I loved Athens so much that my husband and I try to go down there every year for the Athens International Film Festival. We didn't make it this spring, so we went down for 2 days this week. We brought our dog, Kimse, and stayed in a cabin on Lake Hope. It was beautiful! We packed our food, and grilled every night. I enjoyed a Burrito Buggy burrito for lunch. Yum! Athens is such a fun town, and it's always interesting to drive the back roads and wonder about the people who live in Southern Ohio. Here are a few pictures of our trip.

On Friday, we took Kimse and rented a rowboat to paddle around Lake Hope. Kimse, of course, had to fall in. She's no fan of water, but she composed herself quite well after the experience.

I wanted to show you what poison ivy looks like. It can look different from time to time, so be careful. We saw some that had leaves bigger than your fist, and some with small leaves too. I've also read that poison ivy is heartier and more potent recently, possibly due to global warming (co2 is an excellent fertilizer for poison ivy), and clearing land for homes and shopping centers. Poison ivy normally grows on forest edges - where the trees end and grass begins. It also climbs trees, so check the ground around trees for signs of ivy. Leaves of three, let it be! It also has a little red where the leaves meet. Virginia Creeper has the red center, but it has 5 leaves.

What a wonderful trip. We relaxed and listened to the bugs, did a little sightseeing, and spent a lot of time in nature. It was very peaceful.