Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It’s the Green Pumpkin, Charlie Brown...part 2

Sometimes I amaze myself. In fact, I’m amazed that I didn’t foresee that I would be painting 35 treat bags this morning. I thought it would be a fun family project--until I remembered that we don’t have time for fun family projects on Wednesdays. We pick up Kristen at the bus stop, drive to piano lessons for both kids, race home, change clothes, and head out to the stables for her horseback riding lessons. We eat out at some non-organic, non-local-food place, like last week’s Fuddrucker’s fiasco. When we finally get home around 8 p.m., Kristen finishes homework, then baths for both kiddos, then reading...and finally, bedtime. There’s no time to paint environmentally-correct treat bags, unless I do it. So guess what I’ve been doing for the past 45 minutes? Sadly, I’ve only painted one the bags need to dry so I can finish them later and stuff them tomorrow. ARGH.

I also amaze myself by assuming Kristen’s teacher would be really excited about an eco-friendly Halloween craft for the kids--without checking with her first. Her teacher was less than enthusiastic about a scarecrow invading her classroom. My friend reminded me that since our kids are now in third grade, gone are the days of elaborate parties and parental involvement. We can send snacks and the kids will have a game day--Kristen is very excited about taking her Nintendo DS.


OK, sorry, enough of my ranting. I’m feeling a bit Kermit-like today--“it’s not easy being green.”

It’s interesting, though. When I started researching ideas for the greening of Halloween, I felt hypocritical. Let’s face it...I will never be the mom who hands out the following recommended treats, gathered from a variety of “green” websites:
  • 100% Honey Sticks
  • Dried veggie chips
  • Organic agave sticks
  • Or, my personal favorite--toothpaste. (A handout that will get you a smashed pumpkin for sure.)

I’ve already admitted my quandry...a compostable treat bag that’s filled with individually wrapped, non-local, non-organic candy. My friend Dana and I faced the same dilemma...we want to include some fun treats, but when checking out the plastic crap at Target...we both walked away. So, what are a mom’s alternatives?

Here, in no particular order, are some ideas for treat-bag fillers that will not relegate you to “weird” mom status (well, at least, I hope). I’ve included some websites and stores, and I’ve limited the items to things that won’t break the bank:

  • Mood pencils with the message, “Happy Hallogreen!” Just like the rings, the pencil changes color depending on your “mood.” $8.50 for a pack of 25.
  • Fair Trade Milk Chocolate Spooky Balls--$4.99 for approximately 22 balls.
  • Tops created from recycled plastic.
  • Pirate eye patch.
  • Bead necklaces from recycled plastic.
  • Worry Dolls. According to legend, Guatemalan children tell one worry to each doll when they go to bed at night and place the dolls under their pillow. In the morning, the dolls have taken away their worries. I stumbled upon this site, which offers a box of 6 worry dolls for $.60 or a colorful bag of 6 for $.45.
  • 52 Tricks and Treats for Halloween--card deck, $6.95. Include one or two cards per treat bag. There are lots of other card deck options--look for question and answer type decks and divvy them up.
  • Friendship bracelets or hemp bracelets.
  • Small coloring books or word searches made from recycled paper.
  • Seed growing kit. Cute kits for $1 at Target.
  • Individual popcorn bags. The paper bags can be recycled.
  • Candy in boxes, like Junior Mints or Nerds. The boxes can be recycled.
  • Mini boxes of raisins. Personally, I would have been annoyed to receive raisins when I was a kid, but they are good treats for the little goblins.
The last three items are also cost-effective for handing out to trick-or-treaters.

What else? What creative, eco-friendly fillers will you add to your treat bags? I’d love to know, so please share your ideas!

Now, what about in-class snacks? For Kristen’s class, I’m providing “Dirt Cupcakes”--you know, cupcakes with icing, dipped in crushed Oreo cookies for the “dirt” effect, with a gummy worm stuck in the middle. I know, I know--there’s nothing organic, local, or healthy about the cupcakes. Still, kids like them, I’m minimizing the trash output by baking them in paper cupcake liners, and I’m sending them in a reusable container. Plus, there’s that whole subliminal message about taking care of the Earth that goes along with the dirt cupcakes, right?!

Of course, it would be better to serve local apples...which can easily be dressed up with a healthy dose of caramel for party festivities. Yum. We’re definitely making caramel apples at home this weekend.

I can’t send in celery sticks or hand out dried veggie’s not in my nature. I want to be good to the environment, I do. I want to be a steward for healthful, local eating. Honestly. But I can’t sacrifice cupcakes. Or caramel apples. Everyone needs a little sugar on holidays, right? (OK, all anti-sugar readers...please don’t tar and feather me. Growing up, my friend Marie wasn’t allowed to eat any junk food at home. Know what she did? She came to my house and gorged on Hostess Ding Dongs and Cheetos. It’s all about moderation...unless someone has a serious health issue.)

Finally, for a small activity--since Kristen’s teacher doesn’t want anything elaborate--I’m sending a reusable jar filled with candy corn. The students can guess the number of pieces of candy in the jar, and whoever is closest to the correct number will win.


Late-breaking development. Instead of game day, Kristen’s class is now watching Old Yeller during the party. What teacher thinks that Old Yeller is festive for a Halloween party? Kristen sobbed when she read the book, and with her animal obsession and soft-heart, I’m afraid she might be psychologically scarred--I know I was an emotional mess when I read the book many, many years ago.

To top it off...our puppy was hit by a car last Halloween. You have no idea the amount of emotional devastation that occurred for several months in our home. I’m not being dramatic--we were a mess. I was hoping we could just make it through this Halloween without a major relapse. Ack--what to do? Should I pull her out of school a little early? What’s your opinion?

OK, on that happy note...I’d better wrap it up for now. There are treat bags waiting to be painted, horses waiting to be ridden, and laundry moldering in the washing machine. Until next time...please share your green Halloween tips and ideas here. I can’t wait to hear how you’re going green for Halloween!

Tomorrow...we're going to talk about what to do with that pumpkin on November 1.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Orange + Black = Green?

Ghosts and goblins and ghouls, oh my! ‘Tis the season for haunted happenings, which our kids look forward to almost as much Christmas. Honestly--what child isn’t excited about eating copious amounts of sugar, staying up late, scaring her siblings, and partying at school?

Can you blame our little pumpkins?

I’m guilty of fueling the kids’ holiday enthusiasm. I love holidays. Halloween isn’t my favorite, but it’s still an excuse to celebrate. I’m such a sucker for elaborate costumes, overflowing treat bags, and cupcakes with gobs of icing...mmmm, cupcakes.

So, after failing last week’s Official No Impact Week experiment, I thought I’d get back on track with our family’s original project: to minimize our impact on the environment. For those of you who are kind enough to check in here on a regular basis, you might have noticed that the posts trickled off regarding our progress during No Impact Week. You know what? It was too much, to
o soon for us.

We tried. We ate more local food, we discarded less trash, we upped our composting, we traveled less. We’re honestly pretty good with watching our energy and water consumption--we buy Energy Star products, I use drip lines for watering the garden (and only when it really needs it), we’re going to invest in rain barrels, we wear sweatshirts inside instead of cranking up the heat.

The last two “project” days, I’m ashamed to admit--I couldn’t pull them off.

Saturday, we should have participated in an activity to “give back” or make a positive impact on the Earth...but Kristen had a five-hour Pony Club Halloween party. It was a really cute party--very environmentally-friendly. The girls bobbed for apples (but the horses went first--yuck!), dressed up the ponies in costumes, ran three-legged races, hopped in used horse feed bags for sack races, played hide-and-seek in the
barn, and took an after dark, “spooky” walk along the trail. A great day, but not exactly what was slated for No Impact Week.

Sunday was to be an “eco-Sabbath,” a day to reflect on our week-long activities and determine what we did right...and not so right. Instead, we frantically cleaned the nasty house to host my sister’s birthday dinner.

I didn’t even serve local food.

Anyway, we’re back to our original family project now...looking at our daily lives and trying to figure out how to be “greener” without losing our sanity. Since we have a major event at week’s end, let’s chat about greening Halloween.

Today, I’m pondering parties.

Traditionally, I’m the obsessive-compulsive room mother...over-scheduling the class Halloween party to ensure that frantic fun is had by all. Last year, for Kristen’s second grade class, we made a bat craft (all elements bought at Michael’s, with nothing remotely recyclable), played a game where the kids turned each other into toilet paper mummies (not recycled), served treats such as a plastic “glov
e” filled with popcorn, plastic bags filled with individually wrapped candy, and drinks served in plastic cups--not recycled.

I’m trying to think of ideas for a less “plastic-y” class party without minimizing the fun quota, and here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

The first item on my list is the plastic treat bag. I’m not doing it this year. Instead, I’ve decided to enlist our kids to help create treat bags that can be recycled or composted after their guts are depleted.

Michael is in a major art phase right now. Last night, he told my sister how much he loves to paint--but that he only gets to paint at school, not at home. Hmm. I guess I’ve been a bit lax in the arts and crafts department here. Poor third child. So, to satisfy his artistic cravings, Mikey and Kristen are both going to paint tomorrow. Lots of orange paint...

We’re creating pumpkin treat bags out of recycled and recyclable/compostable brown paper lunch sacks. To create our pumpkins, we’re painting about 3/4 of the bag orange--on all sides. We’re leaving the top 1/4 of the bag plain brown for the “stem,” then tying the bag closed with
green raffia (the “vine.”) All parts of the bag, including the raffia, will break down into compost. Here’s the sample that I made this morning...

Unfortunately, the treats inside are still individually wrapped candies. I hate the packaging waste, but I also understand the need to give out treats that the kids will be allowed to eat. The world is a little too scary to allow our kids to eat unwrapped candy or other treats from strangers. I actually considered the option of buying Fair Trade candy...but balked at the cost to fill 30+ treat bags. Sorry. If you want to hand out Fair Trade candy, let me know, and we’ll be knocking on your door. In fact, I’ll tell you a bit more about a cool reverse trick-or-treating program involving Fair Trade chocolate...tomorrow.

So, I’m feeling a little better about eliminating the plastic treat bag
s. Now what else can we do to “green up” the party?

For a fun activity, I’m going to propose that the class work together to create a scarecrow mascot for the room. Every year, I plan for our family to make homemade scarecrows out of recycled materials--and we’ve never done it. Yes, our two standard, assembly-line scarecrows are currently guarding the mums and pumpkins in the front yard. Still, I think it would be a fun project to make a scarecrow “reading buddy” for the classroom...crafted from all recycled materials. Here’s what we’ll need:
  • Old clothes. Not a problem. I have plenty of clothes in my closet that, unfortunately, don’t fit. Long-sleeved shirt, overall or jeans, socks and/or boots, garden gloves, topped with a classic straw hat...I know we have all of those things cluttering closets here.
  • Newspaper to stuff our friend.
  • String or twine (to tie the cuffs closed).
  • An old pillowcase for the head.
  • Safety pins, to help hold all of the parts together.
  • Pencil and markers for the face.
To assemble a scarecrow, tightly tie closed the ends of the pants and sleeves on the shirt. Stuff the clothes with newspaper. Stuff the socks, tie closed, and tie or pin onto the pants. Stuff the gloves, tie closed, and tie or pin onto the bottom of the sleeves. Tuck the shirt into the pants.

Draw the scarecrow’s face onto the pillowcase with pencil, then color with markers--preferably permanent ones if you plan to put it outside. Stuff the pillowcase and fasten it to the shirt/body.
For finishing touches, add the accessories of your choice--bandana, hat, belt, whatever items you no longer need and can recycle for your scarecrow. Then, when you’re done--please send me a picture, and I’ll post it on the blog!

So, we have the treat bags and craft covered...we’re getting a little bit greener already. Now, what about snacks and a game? Hmmm. I think I might need to raid the treat bags for some sugar-fueled inspiration. Stay tuned for part two of:

It’s the Green Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

And please--share your great green Halloween ideas here...I'd love to hear your ideas!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Redemption...Local Foods, Part 2

Yesterday, the heroes of our story failed their eat local foods, support local farmers, know the origin of every bite consumed, and reduce their carbon footprints in the process. After succumbing to the evil-but-tasty cheeseburgers of Fuddrucker’s, our heroes pledged to fight back end their dependence on big, bad, agri-corporations and search out local alternatives.

And search I did. This morning, determined to find local fare to feed my family, I disregarded the No Impact Week challenge of using less energy and drove 25 minutes to Whole Foods, land of clean eating. I was thrilled--I had two hours until preschool pickup, so not only did I plan to stock up on organic, locally farmed produce and meat, I’d also have time for pansy shopping.


Whole Foods is a sensory pleasure. From the gorgeous mums outside the store to the
artfully arranged produce to the funky wines and olives, I absolutely relish shopping at Whole Foods. Don’t get me wrong--I think the people at Publix are wonderful, and I’d rather shop at Farmer’s Market for all of our meal necessities...but since I missed FM on Saturday, I felt a trip to Greenville was mandatory. After all, we needed to replenish our local meats and produce so we could redeem ourselves today.

Not only did I miss pansy shopping, I almost missed picking up Michael.

I spent more than an hour and a half searching for locally raised food. I read labels, I scoured signs, I asked helpful salespeople...

And I spent $187 for a couple half-full bags of “regional” food. The only local food I found was yellow squash, zucchini, and Carolina rice. The rest hailed from North Carolina or Georgia.


I thought finding local produce and meats at Whole Foods would be a no-brainer. Yes, I found delicious, gorgeous organic food...but none that was grown within 100 miles of our home. So, I decided to at least support regional providers, including a North Carolina wine that I can’t wait to try.

Local eating was a bust again today...but I must say, our regional dinner was pretty scrumptious. Here’s what was on the menu:
  • Free-range, organic roast Poulet Rouge Fermier (a heritage breed chicken from Joyce Foods, North Carolina) with sea salt and rosemary.
  • Carolina Rice
  • Sauteed local zucchini and yellow squash, organic, with Parmesan melted on top
  • Homemade apple pie--apples from Niven’s Apple Farm, crust from Pillsbury...oops. Sorry, but Pillsbury just makes really good crust.
While I did stock up on some regionally produced meats today, I can’t wait to visit Hub City Farmers’ Market on Saturday. The Market provides a more financially reasonable alternative to Whole Foods.

You’ll find numerous vendors at the Market, but there are three farmers that I always visit. Parson’s Produce consistently provides gorgeous, seasonal, sustainably raised veggies--including many heirloom varieties, which means exceptional taste and interesting presentation. I buy produce from Daniel Parson as often as possible, and he always displays some funky veggie that he has to tell me how to cook. Plus, he often passes along gardening advice, which I really appreciate.

Native Meats is an excellent provider of locally raised meats that are drug free and sustainably raised. I wished I had stocked up at the last Farmers’ Market --we bought some yummy brats and chicken breasts to try, and we were really happy with the quality. Native Meats offers a fantastic service--they’ll deliver to your home. With many mixed-box options that can be ordered at a much more reasonable price than the meat I purchased at Whole Foods. I’ll definitely be visiting Native Meats on Saturday.

The third vendor that I always visit is Ed at Field and Flower. He’s the sweetest flower farmer with absolutely gorgeous and reasonably priced bouquets. I always pick up a bunch of sunflowers ($6) that lasts almost two weeks. His mixed bouquets are casual but beautifully designed--he also provides flowers for weddings--and at $7-$10, I never feel too guilty buying myself a treat. He’s also so much fun to talk with, especially if you love gardening and flowers.

The Hub City Farmers’ Market is wrapping up on October 31 for the season. I’ll be there this Saturday, stocking up. Anyone want to join me? In the next few days, I’ll fill you in on other local sources besides the Farmers’ Market that can feed you through the winter...

Since today’s experiment involves reducing energy consumption, I’m going to turn off the computer now and open the bottle of our regional wine. I’m slipping into an organic food coma, I’m afraid...


Can You Supersize It?

Day 4 of the Official No Impact Experiment.

Today’s challenge: Food.

I love food.

I love local food. I adore the Farmer’s Market, the sense of community, talking with those dedicated folks who eschew the big bucks in lieu of a more meaningful life. People with amazing knowledge and tough jobs--sustaining our families with fresh, healthy, drug-hormone-pesticide-free food.

I grow heirloom vegetables. Take a look at one day’s harvest this summer:

I sell heirloom vegetable plants. I’m a composting, seed-obsessed former PR girl turned farmer-wanna be. So today’s challenge to eat locally was a piece of cake, right?

More like a Twinkie.

Here’s what the Adolfs ate today:

  • Farm-fresh, free-range organic eggs--the yolks for the dogs, the white for us. So far, so good.
  • Biscuits. Before you nominate me for Mom-of-the-Year, you need to know--they were from a can. Pillsbury. I'm not sure how many miles those biscuits traveled, but they sure weren’t from around here. (“I know where my breakfast came from,” said Peter. “Our oven. How much more local can it be?” Ha, ha...what a funny guy.) I suppose we could have gone to Krispy Kreme, watched them make donuts, and eaten them “Hot and Ready Now.” Our breakfast would have been just as local, I suppose...maybe more so.
  • Pear for Kristen. Not local, I’m sure--although it was from our local Publix.
  • Diet Coke for me...yep, still haven’t kicked the habit, but I haven’t gone back to the wicked cans.
Lunches for Kids:
  • Sliced cheddar cheese--nope, not local.
  • Cookies...damn, there’s that Pillsbury again.
  • Cheez-Its. Now, that’s healthy.
  • Applesauce in a plastic cup for Kristen, mixed fruit for Michael.
  • Not one bite of local food in those lunch boxes.
Lunch for Peter and Me:
  • Wednesdays are our “lunch dates”--I work with him at our company in the a.m. while Mikey’s at preschool, then we go out for lunch. We really tried to find a restaurant serving local food. Really. Instead, we ate at a new Mediterranean place, Sahara. Nothing local there, but it was yummy. Lamb, hummus, rice...mmmmm.
Snack for kids:
  • Leftover homemade apple pie made with (you guessed it) Pillsbury Crust. Fortunately, the apples originated at Nivens’ Apple Farm, only about 10 minutes from our house. Whew.
  • Fuddrucker’s.
  • Yes, you read that right--big, fat, greasy cheeseburgers, hotdog for Mikey, chicken tenders for Kristen. Fries for all.

What happened?

Just this week, I bragged about my homemade pesto created from the last of our basil. I’ve made three batches of tomato sauce from our more than 80 heirloom tomato plants. I shop at the Farmer’s Market. I search out local producers, we pick berries and freeze them, I drive to Woodruff for free-range chicken and eggs, I own a food mill, for goodness sakes! How did we screw up so badly today?

Here’s my epiphany:

It’s hard work to eat locally.

I hate to admit it, but it’s true.
You need to get your butt out of bed on Saturday mornings to visit the Farmer’s Market. You must learn to cook seasonal food--some of which might be outside your comfort zone. Did I know how to cook Thai eggplant before my farmer friend gave me some tips? Nope, I didn’t even know what that funky little veggie was.

If you’re not a vegetarian--and we’re omnivores at our house--you need to track down local providers of sustainably raised, humanely treated, drug-free meat...and not think too much about those chickens looking at you. You’ll also be shelling out more money for this food. The good news is--your local farmer actually gets to keep some of this money to reinvest in sustainable farming, rather than your money disappearing into the mega agri-corporations that shortchange farmers and hire lobbyists so they can continue to produce sub-par food.

Once you’ve gathered your produce and hunted for your meat--you’re still not done.

You have to cook it. You need to create a meal.

We are creatures of convenience. It’s become a necessity. Most families consist of dual career parents with kids that are scheduled to the max--schoolwork, soccer, ballet, piano, religion classes, baseball, football,’s a finely-oiled family machine that ensures everyone gets to their activities on time. Of course, it’s easier to eat at Fuddrucker’s after a busy day of work, piano lessons for two, horseback riding for one...especially when riding ends at 7 p.m. Should we head home (a 40-minute drive), start preparing a lovely, locally produced meal and feed the kids at 8:30 or 9 p.m...or cram some crap into them so they can get to bed at a decent time?

Well. You know our decision.

I’m not proud of us today. The thing is--I only work outside our home one morning per week. Sure, I have plenty of work with my heirloom plant business, but at least I’m home--where I can multitask, cooking local food while ordering seeds. I can get the family fed with healthful, local food and still get the kids in bed before midnight.

I have the time to hunt and gather.

Still, I remember too well the stress of working full-time and trying to feed a picky-eater. Tyler’s diet during those days consisted of hot dogs, Kraft Macaroni-and-Cheese (in various shapes for variety, like Pokemon), and chicken nuggets. Oh--and ketchup. Surprisingly, he turned out to be a pesto-eating, bruschetta-loving healthy young adult.

I suppose the point to this rambling is...

We’re having a do-over. Tomorrow. We’re going to eat locally if it kills us. As my faithful sidekick (aka husband) pointed out today, we’re taking part in the No Impact Experiment for a year, not just this week. Hopefully, Wednesdays will be our only blip in the local-food endeavor.
Also, we’re just muddling through and trying our best.

Today wasn’t our best effort. But it’s life. We’ll be better tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow--I’m going to post some terrific local producers for you to check out. Some you can meet at the Hub-City Farmer’s Market, some you need to take a field-trip to find...but you’ll be glad you did! If you are ga-ga over certain local farmers, please share your faves here!

Until tomorrow,

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Are We There Yet?

Boy, did I wake up on the wrong side of the bed today. For no particular reason, I caught a bad attitude overnight. Too many late nights? Too many early mornings? Too daunting of a task that challenges our family for a Tuesday? Yes to all of the above, because today is:

No Transportation Day (at least, not of the fuel-guzzling variety).

I knew this challenge would get us kicked off eco-island.

I love the idea of walking and biking for all of our travels. I would love to walk the kids to school. I think a basket on my bike for toting home produce from the Farmer’s Market is so picturesque.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid we’d become roadkill on the way to school, since we’d need to walk along a 50 mph, four-lane road with inconsistent sidewalks, while cell-phone chatting drivers race one another to school/work/Dunkin’ Donuts. Plus, the Farmer’s Market is 8.1 miles away...and my bike is the same blue Schwinn ten-speed that my parents gave me for my sixteenth birthday. Oh--and I can’t remember the last time I actually rode a bike. I need some serious training before I even attempt the hills in our subdivision.

So, today is a bummer. I’m ready to admit defeat. I’ve already driven Mikey to preschool, which is just about a mile from home, but it’s also located on the above-mentioned crazy road...and it was 38 degrees this morning. Since we’re always late for preschool, walking didn’t seem viable--we’d show up just as the teachers dismissed the kids. Kristen does ride the bus home from school, so I’m feeling good about that. But that’s our only “mass transit” option in our area. And--she has violin lessons today, which requires a 30-minute drive to the college, and another 30-minutes home.

Sorry for the negativity. Sometimes I miss living in a community where it’s possible to celebrate “Walk to School Day” by actually--walking TO school, not AROUND its perimeter after the parents drop off their kids.

On a positive note:

I consciously chose to stay home this morning to avoid driving. I turned down Peter’s offer to meet at a nursery to buy pansies. Anyone who knows me understands this is a very big sacrifice. The nursery is in Greenville, which would require another 30+ minutes of driving each way--for both of us, since he’s out running errands. (At least he’s driving the Prius.) Ah, such self-sacrifice for the sake of the Earth!

In more good news--yesterday’s Trash Day went really well. We still haven’t filled even half of a reusable shopping bag since Sunday. You should see the mess in the garage that’s awaiting recycling, though--but, as you know, I can’t drive it to the recycling center today.

Trash Day was also pretty easy for us because we compost. Due to my gardening obsession, Peter built a three-bin compost site about a year ago. I love it. Composting is a fantastic way to dispose of food waste (just no meat or oils, you don’t want to attract animals), grass clippings, and leaves--even newspapers and paper towels. We keep a compost bucket (with lid) on our porch--we tried to keep it inside, but fruit flies became an issue. When it’s overflowing, like right now--we take it to the compost bin. I garden organically because the composted soil is so rich and full of nutrients that I don’t need to buy petroleum-based fertilizers. In the next few days, I’ll post info about building a compost bin and the steps to make great soil.

Trash Day also led to a pretty yummy dinner--with minimal packaging waste. Monday night, we had our first frost for SC. Luckily, my friend warned me about the impending cold, and I harvested the last of the summer’s basil. I spent three hours making five small containers of pesto--how can so much work result in so few meals? Anyway--we ate free-range, drug-free chicken from Live Oaks Farms in Woodruff, mixed with the homemade pesto and pasta. The kids, of course, ate plain pasta with plain chicken. You’d think we were murdering them by forcing them to try three noodles with pesto. Yeesh.

So, Trash Day was a success, I think. And--I’m going to readjust my attitude about Transportation Day. When we started our little experiment, I lovingly named it “No Impact Man-Lite.” We’re not going to go off the grid, and we’re not going to forgo toilet paper. We’re just going to try to improve our relationship with the environment. I suppose I shouldn’t beat myself up now.

Reprieve! Kristen’s violin teacher just called and canceled her lesson! Weird. If I leave now, I could even walk to Mikey’s school to pick him up. Hmm.

Maybe today won’t be as tough as I thought...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Will DSS Take My Children Away Due to the Piles of Trash Intentionally Left in the House?

Today is Trash Day. Ummm...actually, I was a little confused and thought trash day began yesterday, so we’ve already started saving our trash for the week. Full disclosure, though--there are some things that are NOT going into the week-long trash collection bag. Sorry, but I’ve always said our family’s experiment is “No-Impact Man-Lite”--there are some things, like the packaging from chicken or any meat, that are going straight to the dump. Safety first.

Did you know that the average American generates 4.6 pounds of trash every day? So, our family of 5 contributes an average of 23 pounds of trash per day, or 8,372 pounds of trash per year. I can believe it, and I wonder if it isn’t actually more--considering that we have two dogs, two cats, a bunny, and two aquariums. I wonder how much trash a dog generates each day? Of course, if all dogs were like Chloe, our year-old pup--we’d have no trash, because she’d eat it all.

Now there’s an interesting solution for reducing garbage...

Please check out the No Impact Experiment project manual for terrific ideas to waste less. I’ll share a few here, but remember--I’m basically plagiarizing. Colin Beavan and the No Impact Foundation generated these great ideas, which can be found at
  • If you are playing along, look at the contents of your special trash bag. Remember, we were supposed to save all the trash we generated yesterday? Now, divide the trash into two piles: stuff you used for more than 10 minutes, and stuff you used for less than 10 minutes. Shocking, isn’t it? Put it back in the bag to continue your trash collection for the week.
  • Compile a no-trash travel bag--reusable cup for hot or cold drinks, handkerchief, Tupperware for leftovers, reusable produce bags.
  • Don’t make trash. Follow the three Rs: Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. But don’t throw it away.
Some of the ideas posted on the website are pretty easy for me to implement: my lovely, organic produce bags arrived Friday; I have a stockpile of reusable shopping bags; I pack the kids’ lunches in reusable containers, not baggies; and we steer away from items with too much packaging. (Kind of ironic for a former marketing girl to shun packaging, hmmm?)

Paper towels and Kleenex are my downfall. I know I should use cloths and handkerchiefs, but I don’t. In fact, in a typical morning of making breakfast and lunch for the kids, I can use five paper towels. The good news is--I compost them. Still--from a resource and energy standpoint, I should limit my use of them.

Handkerchiefs are an interesting concept, because Peter uses handkerchiefs. All I can say is: you’ve got to really love a man to wash his handkerchiefs. Yuck. (Actually, I just kind of throw them in the washer and hope for the best.) So--he is our anti-Kleenex champion for the family.

Kristen and I, however, should give handkerchiefs a try. We can easily blow through a box of tissues in a day or two with our nasty perhaps I’ll try to find some pretty little handkerchiefs for us. Mikey just uses his sleeve unless I can catch him in time. And somehow, I just don’t see Tyler incorporating hankies into his college-dude lifestyle.

I can also tell you quite honestly--while I want to better the environment and reduce our trash contribution--there will be no DivaCup or The Keeper happening for me. What, you may ask, is a DivaCup? Go ahead and Google it--you ladies can let me know if you would be willing to use that. I will personally make an eco-trophy for any woman who embraces it.

Also, for anyone interested in purchasing reusable produce bags, I received a coupon for 15% off a purchase, with the offer open to friends. I'm not endorsing this company, because I haven't tried the bags yet--but they look good. The web
site is, and the promo code is "EBS09."

So, my friends--it’s time to start the challenge and see how much trash we can avoid! Good luck to anyone who is playing along, and tonight I’ll let you know how much trash the Adolf family generates today.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Compulsive Consumers.

Well, Day One of the official No Impact Experiment week was--hopefully--a blip in our family’s journey toward environmental enlightenment. Frankly, we sucked. For a day when we were supposed to curtail our consumption, take a look at our results:
  • Lowe’s--four pressure-treated 4x6x12 pieces of lumber to build the foundation for my greenhouse. Also two tools Peter needed for the greenhouse project.
  • Home Depot--rented a fuel-guzzling pick-up truck to transport lumber home. (It was kind of sickly funny to pick up the wood from Lowe’s in the HD truck.)
  • McAlister’s for lunch--because we were starving and wanted to eat quickly to get back to work on the greenhouse project.
  • PetSmart--a pack of chew bones for the dogs, since Chloe decided to chew a blue marker this a.m...and we now have blue marker all over the carpeting throughout the house. Why couldn’t she just stay in one spot to chew the marker? It would have been annoying...but so much less so.
I hope, if you are playing along, that you consumed less than we did today. I did keep all of our trash in a reusable bag for tomorrow’s portion of the experiment. Stay tuned...

On a happy note...I planted lots of heirloom garlic today, and I harvested the remaining basil tonight, since we might have frost. Tomorrow, I’m making a boatload of p
esto...and I must say, my hands already smell delicious.

I’m taking my consumerist self to bed and hoping for better success tomorrow...Trash Day.

And we're off!

Here is it...the beginning of the official No Impact Experiment, A One-Week Carbon Cleanse. Today’s challenge:

Consumption (aka Don’t Buy Stuff!)

Did you know that:

“...ninety-nine percent of the stuff we harvest, mine, process, transport--99 percent of the stuff we run through this production system is trashed within six months.”
Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff

Frightening. When I think about the amount of items I purchase and what ultimately happens to those items I urgently “needed”...I personally contributed to that statistic. It’s not just the impact on the landfills as we junk our purchases--but think about the amount of petroleum needed to produce and transport those quickly trashed items.

Our hero, Colin Beavan, No Impact Man, shares a terrific list to get us started on our journey. Be sure to check out the project website ( to read the manual--you’ll find great ideas, like:
  • Type a list of the stuff you “need” to buy, and figure out what you can do without this week. Cross off those items. Borrow, buy used, or make your own items that you can’t live without this week.
  • Track your trash. Keep a reusable bag handy, fill it with your trash, recyclables, and food waste from today. Take a bag with you if you leave the house and put your trash in there. Take a look at what you accumulate throughout the day.
  • Do you need to shop? Can you think of anything more fun or productive to do with your shopping time?
If you plan to play along this week, please leave a comment so we can all support one another! You can also sign up at the official No Impact Experiment website, where you’ll find great ideas to get you through the week.

I’ll check in tonight to let you know how the Adolf family survives Day One. (Shoot...why did I just eat that Special K cereal bar? Now I have to add the wrapper to my bag of trash.)

See you tonight!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pile of Shame.

Remember my promise to curtail my purchases yesterday in honor of Blog Action Day, thus reducing the amount of packaging I would contribute to landfills and recycling stations? Well, I didn’t buy much yesterday...but several online purchases arrived--all on my “reduce purchasing and packaging” pledge day! Holy crap. Take a look at the amount of packaging that entered the Adolf house yesterday:

To add to this lovely pile of trash, we took lunch to Kristen at school--so let’s add two plastic salad containers from Zaxby’s into the pile of shame, as well as two styrofoam cups with plastic lids and straws, a paper bag, cardboard box, and plastic cup for Kristen’s kid’s meal, all nicely packaged in a plastic bag. UGH. I also purchased a contact case and solution for add two more cardboard boxes and two more plastic products to our demise of the Earth. Plus, of course, I had to buy a book at the Joel Salatin presentation last night.

I’m so embarrassed.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

You’re Getting Warmer...Blog Action Day 2009

Welcome to Blog Action Day! (And you thought this was going to be another rambling about Diet Coke and eco-wine...HA!)

Today, thousands of bloggers throughout the world are working together to raise awareness of climate change--and to help generate ideas to improve our environmental stewardship. Let’s rip open a cask wine and drink to finding a solutio
n for global warming!

In honor of Blog Action Day, we’re taking a little trip
...a journey to one of my favorite destinations. A country that produces delectable chocolates, precision watches, and yes, wonderful husbands...


Two years ago, our family traveled to Switzerland to visit Peter’s parents, who live in Kreutzlingen, near the German border. I was nervous--it was Mikey’s first international trip, and the thoughts of eight hours on a plane with him were, well, terrifying. Remember the family who was kicked off the plane for having an unruly toddler? I was certain we'd be next.

My fears were unfounded. Mikey was a terrific traveler. Kristen was already a traveling pro by then, and Ty--well, what teen isn’t excited to go to Europe, even if it means spending serious quality time (two weeks) with his parents and much-younger siblings?

While my fear-of-flying vanished, I developed a new fear on the trip:

global warming.

OK. We all worry about global warming--exce
pt for those poor, misguided few who refuse to believe scientific data and instead listen to the propaganda of the former administration. (Oops, sorry, this is a bi-partisan blog.)

However, we worry about global warming in a theoretical, abstract way. We joke about the sweltering summers, we hang our heads about greenhouse gases, we write impassioned letters to save the polar bears. Global warming is a tough challenge to combat, especially when you don’t know, really, how one person can make a significant difference in our planet's health. Yes, we read the articles, listen to the experts, and watch the Planet Earth documentaries. But you know that cliche expression “a picture is worth a thousand words”? Well, imagine seeing the effects of global warming live, in person--right before your eyes.

I did.

Toward the end of our vacation, we spent a day playing tourists, driving through the major mountain passes in Switzerland. We picnicked at the Kleine scheidegg. Took photos in front of the Eiger. Drove to the Grimselpass. Took more photos at the Rhone glacier. Drove some more to the Sustenpass and took more pics at the Steingletscher. Peter’s parents thought we were crazy Americans for spending more than 14 hours driving around the country--and they were right. I hate to think about our carbon footprint after that day of driving...

The thing is--without our little road trip, I would still b
e talking about global warming in the abstract. I would quote Al Gore and environmental scientists, read articles and spout statistics.

Instead, I am now a Primary Source.

At each point along our road trip, we viewed glaciers. Gorgeous, breathtaking, Alpine glaciers...


Take a look at the photo. See the ice? See the line where there’s no vegetation? That’s how much the glacier receded. The glacier should reach into the valley. Now you see it, now you don’t. The skeptics will say...check history. Glaciers thaw, then build up again. Sure, that’s been true...until now.

The current thaw continues to accelerate with no reversal in sight. According to BBC News, since the 1980s, Alpine glaciers lost approximately 25 percent of their surface. The Sierra Club predicts that by 2050, 75 percent of Switzerland’s glaciers may disappear. 2050! If our children return with their children in 2050, they may have a tough time finding the glaciers where we took our family vacation photos. Kristen would only be 49.

In fact, my favorite family photo, taken in front of the Eiger, shows a tourist mecca on the verge of collapse due to global warming. The Eiger East Face is crumbling. We’re not talking about just a few stones sliding down the mountain. In 2006, two million cubic meters of rock--enough to build two Empire State Buildings--split away from the main mountain. See that pile of rubble at the base of the mountain, behind my cute family?

What happened? The rock of the Eiger was held in place by the ice of the lower Grindelwald glacier. In the 19th century, the Grindelwald glacier reached far into the valley. Take a look at the photo again to see where the glacier ends now. As the ice melted, a mass of unstable limestone no longer had it’s permafrost layer binding it to the mountain. Melting glacial water entered cracks in the rock, causing larger fissures to open. Down went the rock.

As the glaciers continue to shrink, what, besides potentially devastating rock slides, will happen?

Glaciers are an important source of water, not only in Switzerland but worldwide. As glaciers recede, water levels in Europe’s rivers will drop substantially. In the months of June, July, and August, more than half of the water in the Rhine River is comprised of glacial melt water.

Reduced glacial water threatens crop irrigation. It obstructs freight traffic on Europe’s waterways. It causes instability in cooling nuclear power stations. It hinders tourism.

Global warming is a very real fear. It already impacts our children’s world.
I think, like most of us, I worried abstractly about global warming. I worried about the polar bears. I worried about melting glaciers. I worried about how greenhouse gases would affect our gardening “zone.” I read articles, listened to reports, signed up for Greenpeace, and agreed that, damn it--we have to DO something! I worried about the idea of global warming and the impact it will have on our future. Our children’s futures.

But now my worries have turned to fear.
Because I’ve seen it. It’s real. And it’s time to step-up our efforts to make a difference... one day at a time.

Today, I’m going to take a baby step--no purchases that generate waste, which generates energy consumption, which generates greenhouse gases, which speed global warming. Small step, yes, but if we all take a day to avoid unnecessary purchases...we’d see big results.

What are your ideas to combat climate change? How can we help slow global warming?

For more info, check out

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

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I’m a little nervous. You see, our year-long foray into full-scale environmentalism just ramped up--as in, next week is the Official
“No Impact Experiment.”

We’re only in week three of our journey. Yikes.

What, you may ask, is the “No Impact Experiment?” And who, you might wonder, made it official?

First of all, let me back up. Our little family experiment began after I read an article about Colin Beavan, the original “No Impact Man.” A writer by trade, Beavan, his wife, and young daughter began a year-long experiment to make zero net impact on the environment. Here’s the kicker--they live in New York City. “That means no trash, no toxins in the water, no elevators, no subways, no products in packaging, no air-conditioning, no television, no toilet paper...” states his book, No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet and the Discoveries He Makes about Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process. You’ve probably heard about him--he’s a talk show darling, challenging Stephen Colbert to participate in No Impact Week. (“Hell, no!” said Colbert.)

As a writer, Beavan began blogging about the experiment and still continues to share his thoughts and actions via blog: He’s living every writer’s dream--his blog became a book, the project became a documentary, and now he has la
unched the No Impact Foundation. This guy doesn’t just “talk the talk.” He is the poster boy for environmental goodness.

Anyway--Beavan’s journey prompted our family’s year-long experiment: “No Impact Man-Lite,” as I lovingly refer to it. I read his book during the first week of our project and found many ideas our family will adopt...and some that just aren’t going to happen. We’re not going to give up toilet paper, we logistically can’t eliminate driving, but there are plenty of ways to turn our negative habits into positive ones.

That’s where the No Impact Experiment comes in.
According to the website,

“The No Impact Experiment is a one-week carbon cleanse. It is a chance for you to see what a difference no-impact living can have on your quality of life. It’s not about giving up creature comforts but an opportunity for you to test whether the modern ‘conveniences’ you take for granted are actually making you happier or just eating away at your time and money.”

Wow. Not sure if we’re ready for this, I thought, when I read about the launch of the experiment.

But as I read deeper into the website, I remembered words of wisdom from two of my friends. While I was beating myself up over the purchase of a drink in a styrofoam cup yesterday, my friend Jessie reminded me that I don’t have to eradicate my carbon footprint overnight--it’s a journey. And my insightful friend Dana, who was part of the wine sampling Friday night, mentioned how much difference we could all make if we just reduced our consumption by 10%. Ten percent? That’s not hard. You barely feel 10%.

The official project site provides fantastic tools and strategies to help transition into No Impact Week. When you log on to the site, you’ll find a downloadable manual full of ideas to help ease you into environmental commitment. The project itself is broken into stages, with each day focusing on a new area:
  • Sunday: Consumption
  • Monday: Trash
  • Tuesday: Transportation (I know this will be the most challenging for us.)
  • Wednesday: Food
  • Thursday: Energy
  • Friday: Water
  • Saturday: Giving back
  • Sunday: Eco-Sabbath
The official launch is this Sunday, October 18. We’re going to try it, and I’ll be writing about our progress...and the things that challenge us.

Who’s in? Want to play? The prizes are fabulous...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Beauty and the Beast

our family of environmentally-friendly Sigg reusable drink bottles.'s been a busy few days. Here’s what I’ve been up to since my last post on Friday:
  • Sampling cask wine with my wonderful book club girlfriends.
  • Buying fresh veggies and gorgeous sunflowers at the Hub City Farmer’s Market.
  • Designing a potager. (pot-ah-zhay; French) A kitchen garden, typically a formal, decorative kitchen garden. We’ve fenced in a section of the backyard so that it’s dog-proof, and I’m trying my hand at a practical but beautiful fall/winter kitchen garden. More on that later this week...
  • Starting eight varieties of heirloom lettuces.
  • Sowing seeds for fraises des bois, also known as Alpine Strawberries, a culinary treat.
  • Shopping in the rain for fall veggie transplants, since my seed growing is behind schedule.
  • Freezing my butt off after said shopping trip, since I haven’t changed clothes and am soaked.
  • Checking my Facebook account obsessively, since I’m among the thousands whose accounts have been undergoing “site maintenance” for more than a week. Still no FB as of today.
  • Polluting the environment with a large styrofoam drink cup.
OK, let’s get the bad news out of the way first so I can clear my conscience.

While I did stick to my resolution to give up Diet Coke cans, I’ve failed miserably in my efforts to forgo my favorite burst of caffeine. Today, being a Monday, felt like a good day to start fresh with my more DC. Well, that lasted until 9:30 a.m., when I was between errands and my head felt ready to explode.

So, here it is:
Yes, not only did I break down and drive through McDonald’s for a large Diet Coke, I completely screwed up--McD’s large drinks are in--gasp!--styrofoam cups. Now, I need to find a station that recycles #6 styrofoam. Yeesh. inappropriate purchase, a Diet Coke housed in styrofoam.

Oh, but it tastes sooooo good. It’s a sickness, I know.

Obviously, I’m not going to win any “environmental woman of the year” award. It’s amazing how many non-ecological things sneak into your life, and in the oddest places.

As I mentioned, we went to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday. Of course, like the good environmental steward I am, I took my reusable bags. It always bothered me, though, that I put my beautiful, sustainably grown vegetables in plastic produce bags that the vendors provide.

While I was talking with one of my farmer friends, I told him about our family project, and I turned down the plastic bag he offered for our Japanese turnips. He pointedly looked at my sunflowers, which I had just purchased from a wonderful flower farmer, with whom I always spend an extraordinary amount of time chatting. two bunches of sunflowers were wrapped in--gasp!--plastic flower sleeves. Damn. I’m such a hypocrite.

Here’s the problem: I was trying to keep an eye on Mikey and Kristen, who were a little obsessed with touching all of the gorgeous flowers, and when I looked up--my friend had already wrapped the sunflowers in plastic. I just didn’t have the heart to ask him to unwrap them.

I’m such an eco-wimp.

It’s not the first time I’ve been an eco-wimp. A funny thing happened this spring, when I was selling heirloom veggie plants at the Farmer’s Market. The plants that I sold through my business, Garden Delights, were all sustainably grown from seed, pampered by me, and packaged to minimize the impact on the environment. I sold all of the plants in peat pots. Peat pots are terrific because the plant’s roots aren’t disturbed when you transplant it into the garden--you plant the entire pot, the plant is happy because it’s not shocked during the transplanting process, and the pot breaks down in the soil. No worries about my business contributing plastic flower pots to the landfill. I also found an environmentally-friendly method for customers to carry home their purchases, since most people, thankfully, bought several plants: cardboard drink trays, an easy-to-recycle/compost solution to plastic nursery trays.

The irony is: a very sweet customer visited me every Saturday with a gift--a bundle of plastic grocery bags. Most vendors at the Farmer’s Market purchase these t-shirt bags, as they’re known, for their customers who don’t bring reusable bags. Since I was selling plants in peat pots with recyclable trays...I had no use for the bags.
But I never told her. I always thanked her for thinking of me, and took the bags home... where they piled up, waiting for me to take them to the recycling station at Publix.

See? Eco-wimp.

I’m trying to be strong and smart about our purchases without being abrasive. I’m curious, though...what might happen if I took my Sigg bottle into McD’s and purchased a drink--without the cup? How would they charge me for the drink? Would I throw off their cup inventory system, since I would be using my own drink container but my order would show a “large” drink purchase? Can you imagine the havoc I would wreck with the McD’s staff? Hmmm. Might be interesting. Stay tuned to see if eco-wimp turns into Environmental Goddess, Champion of the Earth...

Finally, I did promise to share a bit about our cask wine sampling. I bought the Wine Cube, Pinot Grigio, California, purchased at--yes, you remembered--Target. Personally, I thought the wine was pretty good--a little sweet for my taste, but definitely drinkable. According to our book club members--and I asked for honest opinions--they also thought it was good. Of course, I’m not sure how honest these ladies’ reviews were, because they are an awfully nice group. They may have been humoring me, just like I wasn’t very honest with my plastic bag-bearing customer...

So, Peter and I are on the search for another cask to sample. Casks are tricky to find in our area--Publix, Sam’s Club, Target--all have very few choices. We’re going to check out a liquor store later in the hopes of more selections. I’ll let you know what we find.

Ah, my head feels better. Thanks for letting me clear my conscience. I’ll try to behave tomorrow...

Until then, here’s a question for you:
What is your favorite eco product?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Bag it.

Here’s an unexpected perk that brightened my day:

I just saved $.05. At Target. For taking my reusable bags.

OK, so I also spent about $120 on things like the box of wine I’m taking for our boxed-wine-sampling tonight at book club, a yoga mat for Peter, and some other stuff...

What the heck DID I buy at Target? Do you ever find yourself filling your cart at Target, getting home, and having no idea how you spent $120? Surely I’m not alone in this blatant consumerism...

WAIT! I got cash back. Whew. An $80 Target-spree makes more sense.


Until this morning, I was completely unaware of Target’s policy regarding reusable bags. For every reusable bag you bring and fill, you get $.05 off your bill. Where have I been?

Oh right. I usually don’t take my reusable bags to Target. Oops.

Well, I’m converted.

I’m good about remembering my reusable bags for groceries, but I tend to forget them for other shopping sprees, like Target. Of course, using the same bag for fresh produce from the Farmer’s Market and, say, fire ant poison from Lowe’s is not the wisest idea. In fact, I just read a study in The Wall Street Journal concerning the nasties that can lurk in our reusable bags. I know that I’m not vigilant about washing my reusable bags, but I can assure you--they’re having a bath. Today. I’m also dividing the bags into two piles: food only and “other.”

A kind of funny--or, actually, sad--thing happened last week when I was checking out at Publix. I, of course, was chatting with my favorite cashier and fumbling around for my debit card while the young bagger guy was trying to fit my groceries into my reusable bags. After I swiped my card, I noticed that he had pre-bagged many items into plastic bags--and then put them into the reusable bags! Now, I do put meat into a plastic bag first--sorry, just don’t want to risk e-coli for my family. But bananas? Popsicles? An individual plastic bag for each San Pelligrino bottle? (This was before Peter gave it up.) I explained that our family is trying to cut down on plastic bag consumption, and could he please take my purchases out of the plastic bags?

With a dramatic sigh, he un-bagged and re-bagged. Of course, the line of customers behind me was growing...and I felt some withering looks aimed at the back of my head.

The problem is not just the shopping bags we use--and we use a lot of bags. In fact:
  • The average American uses between 350-500 bags each year--that’s 100 billion bags.
  • It takes 12 million barrels of oil to produce all of those shopping bags.
  • Only one percent are recycled.
  • More than one million birds and 100,000 sea turtles die each year due to ingesting plastic bags--a plastic bag floating in the ocean sure looks a lot like a jellyfish to a hungry turtle.
Some countries, like Switzerland, expect customers to bring their own bags. I remember my surprise when we had to buy a plastic bag for a purchase at a grocery store. Other countries, like Ireland, impose taxes on plastic bags. Ireland decreased plastic shopping bag consumption by 90% since 2002, reducing overall plastic bag usage by 1.08 billion.

Even communities in the US are fighting the shopping bag war. The Los Angeles City Council recently voted to ban plastic shopping bags from stores, beginning July 1, 2010. Shoppers will need to bring their own bags or pay 25 cents for a paper or biodegradable bag.

Still, I think it’s interesting that we’re so focused on plastic shopping bags. Yes, we need to reduce our dependence on and disposal of plastic shopping bags.

But what about those plastic produce bags?

I can’t avoid them--even at the Farmer’s Market. This week alone, I accumulated 11 produce bags. Ack! Why isn’t anyone launching an assault on plastic produce bags?

Alternative produce bags are available--online. I tried to find reusable produce bags in our area--to no avail. Even when I called Whole Foods, the person I spoke with had no idea what a reusable produce bag was.

So, I’ve ordered a set of organic cotton drawstring bags from a website called I know what you’re thinking--the bags will add weight to your produce, and you’ll end up paying more for your food. The cool thing about these bags is--there is a tag attached to the bag that states the weight of the bag so the cashier can tare the scale. Now, how well will this system work when I try to buy some snow peas at Publix? Will the bagger put my organic produce bags into plastic shopping bags? Will they offer me the penny item of bottled water???

Stay tuned...

And--if you know of other stores that offer incentives for shoppers to bring their own bags, please share! I believe Whole Foods offers $.05, but I’m not aware of others.

I’m off to plan my potager--our weekend project. What is a potager? Well, my friends, you’ll have to tune in to find out!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Cool cup.

It’s only been a week since we began our little project, and already I’m learning how much I don’t know.

At Furman’s Parents’ Weekend Saturday, I fell in love.

With a cup.

Apparently, this eco-product snuck onto the market when I wasn’t looking. OK, honestly, how often did I check the green-ness of fountain drink cups? Ummm...never.
Except to rant when I got a drink in a styrofoam cup.

Look at this little beauty. She’s perfect. She’s a lovely alternative to the PET cups of yesterday which, while recyclable, were energy hogs.

She’s mad
e from corn. Grown in the United States.

And she’s compostable.

According to the manufacturer’s website, this little lovely is:
“...made from PLA plastic derived from corn. PLA [polylactic acid] plastic is a compostable material that when placed in a commercial environment will naturally decompose back to organic elements. Unlike regular cold cups that are made using petroleum, PLA plastic products are made using US grown corn!”

Too good to be true?

In the interest of research, I purchased a fountain drink and brought home my newest eco-find. The company’s website states that the cup is compostable in a “commercial” environment, which is highly monitored and regulated. When I researched the PLA cups further, several sites mention that the cup will compost entirely in 45 days in a commercial composting facility.

But what if I don’t have a commercial composting facility? What if I bury it in our backyard compost pile?

So stay tuned. Today, October 8, little lovely cup is getting a new home among the grass clippings and coffee grounds. I’ll let you know how long it takes before she becomes food for my heirloom plants.

(And, yes...that is a bit of Diet Coke in the bottom of the cup.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Walk this way...

Here’s a trivia question for you:

What is significant about October 7? (Besides the fact that it’s the day before my sister Becky’s birthday--HAPPY EARLY B-DAY, Becky!)

Give up?

Today is International Walk to School Day.

Every year, Walk to School Day makes me a little melancholy. I adore the idea of the event, I applaud the good intentions behind it, I support the goals of the organization--but the execution is, sadly, flawed.

At least at Kristen’s school.

Here’s my problem: I’ve participated in Walk to School Day several times. Do you know what the kids and parents do? We drive/bus our kids to school, and then walk AROUND the school at a predetermined time.


Somehow, driving to school, sitting in the carpool line, dropping off the kids, driving home, and then driving back to school for a walk-to-school event just seems a tad absurd to me.

In fact, I think the International Walk to School Organization would agree that the event at my daughter’s school is a bit short on meeting the group’s goals. Here’s what the organization’s website states about the event:

“Communities are using the walk or bike to school [event] as the first step to change community culture and create environments that are more inviting for everyone, young and old. Here are some reasons to support walking and biking to school:

“To enhance the health of kids. Increased physical activity can combat a host of health problems facing kids today.

“To improve air quality and the environment. Replacing car trips to school with walking or bicycling can help reduce air pollution.

“To create safer routes for walking and bicycling. Sidewalks, education programs and traffic calming measures are some of the ways to improve conditions.”

Considering the goals of the International Walk to School Committee, our event seems rather...counterproductive.

Granted, I can’t offer a good solution to the school's administration. I know they’re doing the best they can with an event that just doesn’t fit Kristen’s school. The major problem is--there are no safe routes for the kids to walk or ride their bikes to school. The school is 2.5 miles from our house, and we’re relatively close to school compared to other students. Yes, distance is an issue--but the traffic and lack of sidewalks are the major reasons it’s not feasible for an actual Walk to School event. The school lies just beyond the intersection of two main, four-lanes roads. To say drivers are aggressive on those roads is like saying that the Duggars kind of like kids. Lame analogy, but you know what I mean...

So, basically, we can cross off two of the goals for Walk to School Day--improving air quality and the environment, as well as creating safer routes through education programs and “traffic calming measures.” Call me a skeptic, but I don’t see the county installing sidewalks or speed bumps based on a once-a-year event.

As far as enhancing the health of kids: yes, a walk around the school provides exercise. But a few years ago, after the kids walked around the school, the PTO provided ice cream after the event. Now, I like ice cream as much as anyone...but really, did anyone even look at the goals for Walk to School Day? If we can't achieve the environmental goals of the event, couldn't the school at least focus on the health aspect? Strike three.

I wish the event could work at Kristen’s school. I really do. I know that throughout the country, the event truly raises awareness about the environmental and health benefits of walking or biking to school. I’m thankful for an organization that encourages families to leave the car at home more often and hoof it to school. I’ve seen the newscasts of hundreds of families walking to school together. It does work, in the right community.

I guess I’m just a little jealous.

I would love to walk to school with Kristen.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Juice boxes, part deux.

I’ve found the perfect juice box that is fully recyclable, economical, and manufactured using 85% less packaging than its counterpart. The best part is:

It’s for us. The grownups.

“Cask” wine is the preferred term for the Bag-in-Box (BIB) products we’ve seen creeping onto the shelves of grocery stores and big box retailers like Target. I’ve blatantly ignored them.

Until now.

I’m not a wine snob. Really. Well, maybe a little bit. It’s not as if I really know much about wine, I simply find a few that I like and stick with them. Pinot Noir is my favorite fall/winter wine, and Pinot Grigio is my spring/summer wine. I’m a sucker for label design. If it’s an interesting label, I’ll try it. If it’s about $10, I’ll buy it. If it’s Italian, I’ll love it. See how logically I make my wine selections?

Perhaps my wine expertise stems from my early career days, as a young marketing girl in the big, exciting publishing world. My friend, Katie, and I spent a lot of time discussing lipstick shades when we probably should have been writing press releases or some other nonsense. Anyway, we were thrilled when our company ousted the current male publisher and brought on board a bright, young female publisher. A mentor! Someone to guide us in growing our careers in the (then) male-dominated publishing world!

I remember how impressed I was when, during an author dinner, our new publisher effortlessly ordered wine for the table. “Simi Chardonnay,” she commanded. I was awed by her knowledge of wine.

Well, after numerous dinners where she ordered “Simi Chardonnay” for everyone, I realized that her knowledge of wine was about as vast as her knowledge of publishing. She lasted six months.

In my mind, I equate a lovely bottle of wine, complete with a beautifully designed label, as tasting delicious. Now, you know and I know that’s crap. It’s all about the grape...and the soil where it grew...and the weather...and the harvest time...and...and...and...

Anyway, I just haven’t been able to get myself to buy a box of wine. It seems too collegiate to me, like I’m going to a kegger and the frat boys made sure to have some boxes of wine for the prissy girls who didn’t drink beer. (Note to Tyler: I never drank before I was 21, and you better not either!!! Ahem.)

So, I’ve snubbed the boxes and continued buying bottles of wine. I’m sad to say Peter and I can no longer finish a bottle in one evening without feeling pain the next day. Sometimes we save it, but often the remaining wine gets dumped.

Perhaps it’s time to try a cask. All in the name of research for our family project, of course.

First of all--and some might say most importantly--the engineering of the cask is ideal for people like us. We like a glass of wine with dinner or after the kids go to bed, but we don’t consume the entire bottle. The design of the cask prevents oxidation--the vacuum-sealed bag protects wine from air exposure. As the wine is poured, the bag collapses on itself without letting air reach the wine. The specially designed spigot prevents air from contacting the wine until poured, which ensures the wine’s quality. The packaging preserves the wine’s flavor and freshness for a minimum of six weeks. “The last glass is always as good as the first,” states the Better Wines, Better World website. (

How’s the quality? Approximately 99% of the wine sold in the U.S. is considered table wine--that is, it can be consumed as soon as it is released into the market. Only a small minority of wine is “aged.” For many wine producers, the packaging is the only difference in their bottled versus box wines. The production methods are exactly the same--except packaging.

We’ve all seen the movies where the pretentious actor swirled his wine and declared to the wine steward that it “tasted of cork.” Did you know that approximately 5% of wine is affected by cork taint? That results in the disposal of more than 40 Olympic-sized swimming pools full of wine. An additional benefit of the cask packaging? No cork taint.

What about the value? An average bottle of wine costs approximately $9. An average cask contains the same volume of wine as four bottles. The average price per box? Approximately $19. For good stuff. Yum.

Now, here’s the real kicker and the reason I’m finally thinking about boxed wine: environmental impact.

The Bag-in-Box packaging generates less than 1/2 the carbon footprint of glass wine bottles. The energy used to produce the packaging and to transport the wine is significantly less than required for glass bottles. BIBs result in 85% less packaging waste than glass, eliminating the heavy glass bottle, capsule, neck band, cork, front label and back label. If all of the consume-upon-release wines sold in the U.S. were converted to BIB packaging, we would save 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, which would be the equivalent of removing 250,000 cars from the roads.

Additionally, while glass wine bottles are recyclable, more energy is necessary to recycle four bottles versus one cardboard box. The bag is also recyclable with #7 plastics.

So, in the interest of research, I’m going to pick up some wine. In a box.

I’ll let you know how it is...

And, for my book club friends, I think I might have a little box wine sampling Friday night to get your opinions.

What do you drink? Box or bottle? What would you think if a friend showed up with a box of wine versus a bottle for a party? Would you think “Cheapo” or “Eco-Goddess”? And, would you willingly drink wine from a box?

I’ll let you know what my testers say...