Friday, August 29, 2008

Your Comments ...

We have, again this month, received some great comments. Thank you to the following people for their ideas and input.

Marion said ... great blog, love it. Well one of the things I do to help our planet is I hang dry the laundry instead of using the dryer. I used to think it's so much work but now I can't imagine doing it any other way. August 3, 2008 5:31 PM

Marion said ... forgot to mention ... I did eat my veggies, eat them every day ... We are a vegan family. August 3, 2008 5:33 PM

Marion said ... Often the water heater is far far away from the bathroom or kitchen sink and one has to let the water run for minutes to finally get some hot. Well we have a tiny water heater right under the sink. So the hot water is there instantly. Our big water heater is set to be on at night only, when electricity is cheaper, and the water stays hot all day. Also we cut down on the showers altogether, we shower every other day only. We have barrels set up in the yard for catching rain water, which we use to water the plants. August 3, 2008 5:45 PM

Marion said ... I use reusable bags, but what I do use as well are the boxes my grocery store provides. They are the boxes the products come in and they have an area in the store where they keep them for people to use. At home I use them to stack in the newspaper and then it's easy to take the old papers to the recycle center. August 3, 2008 5:49 PM

Marion said ... actually there are these handy dandy drying racks that are smaller than my bathtub and hold at least one huge load of laundry, maybe even more. I keep it in my bedroom by the open window so the clothes get air. In the winter the house is very dry from the wood stove and the wet laundry serves as a humidifier. August 3, 2008 6:04 PM

Kelly said ... This is a great post. I work in the Asheville tourism industry (for a local vacation rental/property management company Carolina Mornings), and with the economy and gas prices the way they've been, we have seen a lot of people visiting from close by and taking shorter trips. Tourism is still growing, just in different ways! I think it's great to explore near home :) I write a blog all about what's happening in and around Asheville. If you are interested, the link is Take care! :) August 17, 2008 9:26 PM

Anonymous said ... I have a shoe dryer sitting in the kitchen in an out-of-the-way corner. In addition to using it to dry shoes (which we take off at the kitchen door when we enter), it is great for quickly and totally drying our washed plastic bags which can then be folded and carefully reinserted into the box for their next use! August 24, 2008 9:42 PM

As always, I love hearing from you ... and now we have an additional avenue for you to reach us. Our email address is posted on the left sidebar. If you'd prefer not to have your comments posted, please let us know.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Need a little more motivation?

While saving the earth is, all by itself, reason enough to reduce the amount of energy we use, it's real nice when we see other benefits as well ... like saving money. The energy company in my area has a great website. On it, I can track my energy usage and see how my efforts are working.

I'm happy to report that in the last year, our average daily kWh usage has dropped by 45%. And that translates into dollars and cents. Wow!

The effort wasn't all that difficult, either ... unplugging electronics when not in use, turning off lights, twisting off light bulbs in the bathroom (who needs that much light), using ceiling fans instead of air conditioning, and the biggie ... switching off our water heater for all but 30 minutes a day.

So I ask you ... if you could cut your electric bill in half, what would you do with the money? Now that's motivation!

As always, I would love to hear your ideas for reducing, reusing and recycling. Just click on the comments link, located at the bottom of each post ... or click on my email address located in the left sidebar under "Contact us" ... and let me know what you think and how you conserve.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Grow your own ...

Today I was in my patio garden, collecting herbs and vegetables for a salad. It always amazes and delights me that fresh picked veggies smell and taste so wonderful. There is absolutely no comparison to the store-bought varieties. And while I'm no expert, I can't help but think that the nutrition of local foods is greater than foods which take days to get to my table. After all, vegetables begin to lose their nutritional value the minute they are picked so ... closer to home means more vitamins.

Whenever possible, we opt for local foods. When I wrote a post on the subject (click here to read it), I concentrated more on why it's a good idea and offered ideas on how and where to buy it. Today I'll talk about growing your own (that's real local).

Growing herbs and vegetables is fun ... and the good news is that almost everyone can do it, even if you don't have a large piece of land. In fact, even if one doesn't have a patio, growing herbs and some vegetables is as easy ... perhaps easier ... than growing houseplants. All it takes is a container, dirt, some seeds, a window and some loving care.

I have a small patio ... you know the type ... a small space just outside the apartment. Rather than put ornamental plants out there, we opted for plants that we could eat. It turns out that they are as beautiful as expensive ornamentals. Along the railing, there are long planters filled with herbs ... parsley, basil, and cilantro. We've taken plastic coffee containers, punched a few holes in the bottom, and hung them from the ceiling. They hold habanero peppers, green beans and peas. I've saved containers of every sort and they hold sweet potatoes, tomatoes, mint, rosemary, oregano and thyme. We even have a small fig tree and this year, we have our first figs. Soon, as the weather cools, I'll plant fall veggies: lettuce, spinach, kale and collard greens. All this in a relatively small space.

Planting "your own" is a cost savings. Consider the price of a bundle of herbs ... pretty high for a small bunch. How about the price of tomatoes ... or fresh green beans? For the price of a packet of seeds, one can get an entire season of veggies. And consider the satisfaction that comes with planting and caring for the food you eat. Here's another thought ... when the world is stressing over tainted tomatoes, those of us growing our own will be enjoying them without worry.

And here's the biggie ... growing "your own" will help Mother Earth.

So ... check your closets and garage for any usable containers. Buy a few seeds and perhaps some dirt (if you don't have access to any clean soil) ... and get started. Herbs, gourmet lettuces, green beans and peas are great starting places ... they grow quickly and easily in a sunny window. If you have a yard or some land ... great. Either way ... growing "your own" can be a fun, healthy activity. And if, in your area, it's too late to start a garden right now ... start planning for next spring. The Internet, farmer's almanac, and the library are all great resources for discovering which plants grow well in a variety of situations ... including container planting. I personally like the trial and error method ... I may not always get a bounty but I have a great time.

Here's wishing you a bountiful, fun garden!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

More about dryers ...

Awhile back I wrote a post about dryers and how to minimize the energy used to run them. If you missed that post, you can read it here. The post also includes an excellent comment from Marion about drying racks and how they can be used (I'm going to look for one and give it a try). What I especially liked about her comment was how the wet clothes on a drying rack could be used to humidify a room in winter.

A friend in Seattle, Washington, sent me another tip on using dryers: Clean the filter. Cleaning the filter will reduce the amount of energy used and extend the life of a dryer. But did you know that if you use fabric softener (especially the sheet variety), the filter gets clogged? Yep ... the wire mesh gets clogged. You can test it out ... just run to your dryer, pull out the filter and take it to the sink. Now, fill the "U" shape with water. Does it run through or ... has the filter turned into a bucket? If it's a bucket, it definitely needs soap and water to turn it back into a filter.

A clean filter will dry the clothes more efficiently, saving time and energy. It'll also extend the life of the dryer. And ... it could save a life. Yep ... a dirty filter can lead to fire.

So ... every few months, check it out ... and wash it out.

As always, I would love to hear your ideas for reducing, reusing and recycling. Just click on the comments link, located at the bottom of each post, and let me know what you think and how you conserve.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Garbage Disposals - To Use or Not Use

I used to think that using a garbage disposal was actually good for the environment ... especially when only vegetable products were ground up. I had visions of nutrients going back to the earth or becoming fish food ... and that, in my mind, justified the many gallons of water going down the drain.

Well, that's not exactly how it all works. When food goes down the disposal, it is sent to a sewer treatment plant or a septic tank. At this point, any solids are allowed to settle to the bottom and are eventually gathered up and sent to a landfill. With a septic tank, the fluids run off to a drain field. In sewer treatment plants which only do "primary" treatments, about half of the solids, organic materials and bacteria are removed and the remaining fluid is chlorinated before being discharged (the chlorination does not get rid of phosphorous and nitrogen). And where is the treated "water" discharged? It is dumped into rivers and other waterways ... and eventually finds it's way to our oceans.

Remember the phosphorous and nitrogen? Well ... those plant nutrients are the primary cause of dead zones, which are areas in the ocean where oxygen is depleted. And that means no fish or plant life.

Some sewer treatment plants go on to complete second and third treatments of the water. In these stages, chemicals are used to remove the phosphorous and nitrogen and about 90% of the organic materials are removed. The water released after three stages of "cleaning" is much better but still ... we're talking chemicals and processing and increased loads for already burdened plants.

So is there a better way? Sure! Composting is the best way but if you can't compost, tossing those veggies peels in the garbage is better than sending them down the disposal. You'll not only save gallons of water, you'll be protecting our environment.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The price of gas got you down?

I've heard a lot of people say that they are foregoing vacation this summer because the price of gas ... actually the price of everything ... has gotten too high. Recently, the town we live in (Asheville, NC) had their street fair ... it's called Belle Chere and is the largest free street fair in the southeast. I heard a lot of vendors comment that attendance was way down.

So I started to think ... how can we have a summer vacation ... one that isn't all about doing fix-it jobs around the house ... without using a lot of energy or breaking the bank? Easy ... play tourist in your own home town/city ... or one close by.

There are all kinds of things to do close to home. Here are a few ideas:
  • Visit a museum or gallery.
  • Take a walk through an arboretum or botanical garden.
  • Check the Internet for things to do (most cities and towns have their own website with all kinds of visitor information).
  • Go hiking in the mountains or swimming at the beach (whichever is closest to you).
  • Stay in a hotel/motel, close to home, and eat out at restaurants.
  • Attend area festivals.
  • Check out a movie or play.
  • Visit an acquarium.
  • Go to a concert.
  • Have a picnic in the park.
  • Check out a farmer's market.
  • Shop in an area that you usually don't frequent.
  • Wander through a cemetery ... I know ... kind of weird but did you know that some cities actually have graveyard tours?
  • Take a walking tour of the downtown area.
  • If your city has tours of historic areas or any other type of tour, take one.

If you stop to think about it, people from other areas probably come to your area for vacation. So ... why not be one of them ... be a tourist in your own home.

As always, I would love to hear your ideas for reducing, reusing and recycling. Just click on the comments link, located at the bottom of each post, and let me know what you think and how you conserve.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Be Conscious With Your Garbage

Today's post comes from Green Living Tips:

When throwing away garbage, know what is recyclable, consumable, and able to be composted. Also, when you purchase food or other items, be conscious as to how much waste it will produce. Separate your garbage, and be aware of what is toxic and should be disposed of with specific care. For example:

• Start a compost heap for your food waste, but make sure you know what kinds of waste can be composted – human and animal waste and some kinds of food waste should not be put on a compost heap. You can then use your compost for a nutrient-rich fertilizer.

• Have different cans or containers for plastic, paper, and non-recyclable items to make recycling easier.

• Buy food in bulk to avoid excess packaging.

• Don't throw away toxic household waste, like paint, paint thinner, car oil, and the like; call your garbage service provider to see what should be done with these kinds of wastes.

• Avoid producing waste as much as possible by using reusable coffee cups, water bottles, pens, and razors.

By being conscious about the waste you produce, you can reduce your footprint on the environment.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Plastic Freezer Bags

I'm reasonably confident in saying that most plastic freezer bags are not environmentally friendly ... but ... as I've said in other posts, I believe in balance. There are times when nothing works better than a plastic freezer bag ... it conforms to any shape and can be shoved into those small freezer spaces. Our freezer is quite small so ... that's an appealing quality.

So how can I use these bags and still not trash the environment? My compromise is to reuse them. In the last two years, I've purchased one box of 35 bags ... that's it ... only one box. I'm careful with them and when they are empty, I wash them thoroughly, dry them and store them for the next time.

I am a vegetarian so, I don't have to contend with animal fat or blood. But with soap and water, even animal products can be washed out. Yes ... it's easier to just toss them in the trash but ... think of it as added exercise ... or turn it into a real "zen" moment.

The bags will eventually hit the recycle bin but ... not for awhile. Oh ... and an added benefit ... you'll save $$.

As always ... I invite you to send in your comments.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Junk mail ...

The average person gets only 1.5 personal letters each week, compared to 10.8 pieces of junk mail.

Each person will receive almost 560 pieces of junk mail this year. That's 4.5 million tons of junk mail produced each year!

44% of all junk mail is thrown in the trash, unopened and unread.

Approximately 40% of the solid mass that makes up our landfills is paper and paperboard waste (by the year 2010, it is predicted to make up about 48%).

100 million trees are ground up each year to produce junk mail.

The good news is that it is possible to eliminate most junk mail. Unfortunately, it takes time and patience. I've read that there is a movement to create a "Do Not Mail" service similar to the "Do Not Call" service that is already in effect. Click here for more information on that. The Do Not Mail registry doesn't exist yet but hopefully soon ... and in the meantime, here are a few ideas to reduce or eliminate the junk mail you receive:

When unwanted junk mail shows up in the mailbox one can write, email or call the company and ask to be taken off their mailing list. If something comes along that you'd like to keep, call the company and ask if they have an email version rather than a "snail mail" version.

Search the Internet for ways to eliminate junk mail. You'll get a lot of sites ... some with ideas and information ... some offering a service, usually for a fee.

There's a website that makes it easy to eliminate unwanted catalogs. Their web address is:

There is an opt out site for prescreened offers of credit and/or insurance. Their web address is:

As always, I would love to hear your ideas for reducing, reusing and recycling. Just click on the comments link, located at the bottom of each post, and let me know what you think and how you conserve.

Monday, August 4, 2008

And now for something completely different ...


When raw garlic is stored in oil, Clostridium botulinum bacteria can grow. Low-acid foods like garlic are a good source of these bacteria which are found in soil, water, and air. Oil's oxygen-free environment is perfect for growth of this anaerobic bacteria. It is slowed down, somewhat, if stored in the refrigerator but ... after a few weeks, the bacteria grows and becomes dangerous. And we're talking botulism food poisoning here.

So ... don't store garlic in oil.

OK ... it's not an environmental thing but ... I thought it was worth sharing.

As always ... send in your comments.

Friday, August 1, 2008

A little of this and that ...

Here are a few hints, tips and interesting facts:

Make reusable tote bags from quilting and sewing scraps.

Did you know ... According to Food and Water Watch, the average American uses 1,190.5 gallons of H2O a day (spent on energy, cleaning and eating).

Take fewer left turns ... UPS has been using this trick for years. Stopping to turn left takes longer and wastes more gas than turning right. UPS estimates that in 2007, it saved more than 3 million gallons of fuel and reduced it trucks' CO2 emissions by the equivalent of taking 5,300 cars off the road, just by route planning with right turns in mind.

The healthiest foods don't come in a wrapper.

Like picnics? Keep them eco-friendly by bringing along cloth napkins and your own beverage containers. Instead of using plastic utensils, check your local secondhand stores for inexpensive silverware.

Try making your trash can the smallest bin in your house, putting everything allowable into your recycling and compost bins.

Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Climbing stairs burns up to ten times more calories than standing in an elevator. Depending on type, capacity and usage, an elevator's yearly energy use can equal that of seven homes. The average person squanders as many as 62 minutes a day waiting (in elevators, traffic, lines).

If all Americans viewed and paid bills online, we could keep 18.5 million trees growing each year. And an added benefit: people who bank online reduce their chances of identity theft by up to 10% since there's no paper trail.

Washing and drying less often keeps your clothes looking newer, longer. Petrochemicals in conventional laundry detergents can harm fish and human health after they go down the drain, so the less we use, the better. A load of laundry costs about $1.50 to do at home - with the price of gas these days, it all adds up.

You can decrease your dryer's energy usage by up to 30% just by cleaning the lint filter (clogged ducts resulting from lint buildup reduce its efficiency). Cleaning out your lint filter could save you up to $40 per year in energy costs. An added benefit: prevent dryer fires which usually start as a result of lint blocking the exhaust duct.

As always, I would love to hear your ideas for reducing, reusing and recycling. Just click on the comments link, located at the bottom of each post, and let me know what you think and how you conserve.