Monday, September 29, 2008

A Brilliant Smile

Every morning when I stumble into the bathroom and brush my teeth, my only concern is waking up (oh to be able to run back to a warm, comfortable bed). I don't think about the fact that my toothbrush is made of plastic or that in a lifetime, most people will go through over 1000 toothbrushes. Nor do I think about the fact that 50 million pounds of toothbrushes end up in US landfills each year.

Plastic toothbrushes in landfills are, all by themselves, a concern. Plastic anything in a landfill is a real problem. But there's more. Did you know that every year approximately 14 billion pounds of trash are dumped into the ocean ... a large percentage of which is plastic? In an article entitled "Trashed", Captain Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation states, "... I now believe plastic debris to be the most common surface feature of the world's oceans. Because 40 percent of the oceans are classified as subtropical gyres, a fourth of the planet's surface area has become an accumulator of floating plastic debris."

Walk any beach and you're sure to see some plastic. Go out on a boat and you'll probably see some floating plastic. But, besides being an unsightly mess, what are the consequences of plastic in our oceans? Plastic is not biodegradable. It does, however, break down physically ... to very small particles. We're talking the size of a fish egg ... and even particles as small as the diameter of a human hair. These tiny particles of plastic persist in our environment for years ... maybe forever.

Perhaps at this point you're saying ... well ... so what ... it's now the size of sand. But guess what ... fish are consuming it ... and it's lethal. And ... there is now a real concern that it's getting into our food chain. Remember the warning awhile back about putting plastic water bottles in the freezer and how toxins leach out of the plastic into the water causing all kinds of health problems? Well ... those toxins are now leaching out into the ocean waters ... and into marine animals ... and plants ... and into our diets. Definitely not good!

So how does all this relate to my toothbrush? Well, plastic ends up in the oceans in many different ways. Recreational boaters, merchant ships, the military, garbage barges and our sewer systems all contribute. Some of the biggest culprits are plastic manufacturers. They use small plastic pellets in their manufacturing process and a lot of these pellets have been found in ocean waters.

So here's how it all relates to my toothbrush. If I don't buy plastic toothbrushes (demand), the manufacturers won't make as many of them (supply) which means they'll require less plastic pellets which means that there will be less opportunity for those pellets to find their way to the ocean. Whew ... we got there!

All of this is to say ... there is a better way. Instead of buying the standard plastic toothbrush, buy an Eco-friendly version from a health store. One can also buy them online through a company called Recyline. Another idea ... buy a toothbrush with a replaceable head ... yes, it's made of plastic but the body is reusable ... for a long time ... and much less plastic will get tossed out every 3 months (the recommended amount of time after which one should replace their toothbrush).

Who knew that being mindful with a toothbrush could help the world's oceans? Now that's cause for a brilliant smile!

As always ... I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Your Comments

Do you read comments on blogs? I have to admit that when I visit a blog, I scan through and read the articles that interest me ... and usually don't take the time to read the comments that have been posted. However, that may be a big mistake because if those blogs are anything like this one, the comments are well worth reading.

Comments received this month include all kinds of good things ... ideas, links to other blogs and websites, and thoughts/questions which encourage further investigation and learning. Thanks to all of you who wrote. And by the way, there are a couple of avenues to send in comments ... click on the word "comments" at the bottom of each post ... or send a direct email to: My hope is that this blog will be used to share information ... but if ever you don't want your comments published, please be sure to tell us.
OK ... on to this month's comments:

Argentum Vulgaris said...

Hi SF, I got here, thanks for the visit and comments, greatly appreciated. Have not read "all" yours, although I can see return visits as being necessary. Your articles are well thought out and written. They offer food for thought about seemingly mundane issues, that if we all took heed of, the world would be a better place. As far as shaving goes, I use the first option, I don't. I am going to link your blog on mine, I hope you don't mind, as an example of the everyday environmental issues.

September 9, 2008 2:25 PM

Argentum Vulgaris

btw, I have (am) adding the link to my newer blog Tomus Arcanum
I think it is more in flavour there.

September 9, 2008 2:32 PM

LITeacher said...

Dear SmallFootPrints,
Thank you for the comment on my blog. I'm glad you liked it. Your blog is great too. It is very informational. We try to do some things at home to help save and conserve, we recycle almost everything, we replaced all of our lightbulbs with energy efficient ones, I am constantly turning things off etc... I will be back to read more. I am going to place your blog link on my blog- I would love it if you would do the same. I hope to hear from you again.
Maureen :)

September 10, 2008 4:35 PM

SAS_Consultant said...

Hi SmallFootPrints,

I agree that we should live and let live, when my husband and I see a spider or other insect in our house we also set it free outside.

But, we have a lot of wasps that have taken up residence on the outside of our house. We can't open our windows without them flying in. For those that have we tried to set them free outside, but as you can imagine this can be a difficult task.

Do you think it would be okay if I sprayed the growing wasp nest outside our house?

September 11, 2008 12:48 PM

Small Footprint's Response to SAS_Consultant:

Thank you, SAS_Consultant, for your comments and question about wasps. I did a little research and learned a lot about them. It turns out that they are considered a beneficial insect because they eat other destructive insects like aphids ... and, because they go for sweet things, they are also good pollinators. However, they are aggressive ... and I will tell you from personal experience that their sting really, REALLY hurts.

Most methods for getting rid of them involve killing them. However, I found one method that dissuades them without killing them and from the reviews I've read, it works. It's called The Original Waspinator. Here's a review on it:

Waspinators are available online at They might be available at garden centers like Orchard Supply, Home Depot or Lowe's.

Here's an interesting fact (and one to keep in mind if one decides to kill these little creatures) ... when wasps die, they send out a signal. Other wasps in the area immediately run to their dying friend's aid. At this point they are ready to fight. Not good!

Thanks, again ... I learned a lot!

Argentum Vulgaris said...

Hi liteacher,

Just ato add, New Zealand suffered many changes with the colonisation in 1840's, introduced sheep, rabbit, goats, deer and cattle. Some of these species have caused terrible problems and now we try to eradicate rabbits with myxamatosis. Also deer control has always been the domain of hunters. But the destruction of natural reserves and pasture for the sheep and cattle has been terrible.

September 11, 2008 3:51 PM

Anonymous said...

I purchased a metal razor many years back for the same reason. The razors themselves, (merkers) are disposable, but not plastic.

I can trim my beard down to shaveable length with scissors.

Then, the most important part for me is not using nasty petroleum products in the shaving cream. So, usually, i just lather up with some good soap (i use dr. bronners, but NOT peppermint!)

Then, shave away, without using any plastic or toxic chemicals.

Of course, i've only used it maybe three times in the last three years since i bought it.

see page below for examples

L. Massey said...

I love this! I think "going green" is such a wonderful topic! zi will visit often and I hope that I might be able to contribute something...thanks!

Argentum Vulgaris said...

Reducing Footprints, I have always composted, but have been lucky enough to have had a garden and plenty of space. I learned the art from my father who had a very green thumb. Always paid off, good rich moist soil.


September 19, 2008 6:21 PM

Mrs. (not) the Jet Set said...

Great tips for the fall! Great for the environment and the wallet.

It's amazing how much money you can save through preventative maintenance.

September 22, 2008 1:07 PM

Valash said...

Thanks for the tips, I never put much thought to preparing the house for the winter.

Cesia said...

Thanks for the composting info. Like you, I've always loved the idea and been afraid to actually do it. Mostly the smell/bugs thing. I also have lots of empty flower pots around ... hmmmm. Maybe I'll have to try it! :)

- Cesia.

Strawberry Hedgehog wrote:
Thanks! Your site looks great, best of luck with it!

I appreciate your feedback and am glad my site is not heavy handed. It is frustrating to meet people who try to force their views on you, whatever they may be.

I wish you well,

September 22, 2008 7:02 PM

Pasifik said...

Great tips you share with us!

Keep posting,


LITeacher said...

These are all great tips- some we already do- I'm going to have to go over the list again and complete the suggestions we haven't done yet! Keep us informed!

Crafty Ladies said...

Excellent tips! Thank you! I will definitely be applying as many of these as I can.

Cesia said...

Thanks for the tips!

Especially the direction to stand under your fan ... I can never remember which way its supposed to go in winter. :)

- Cesia

Nana Net said...

Excellent tips! Thanks so much for sharing these. Plus I went back trhough and read your other posts. You really have a great Blog! I definetly will be back and will show you as one that I read daily!
Can't wait to read more!

Designerly said...

thanks the comment you left me :) i'm so glad you liked it!

i thinks it's awesome that you're blogging about green living, it's something i'm hoping i can start to blog about too in relation to art and design, especially about the new green movement in industrial design with packaging etc.. so yeah, all for green, and keep up the great info. :)

Denise said...

I'm always looking for ways to cut plastic out of my life. I never thought of replacing my liquid detergent with powder. Thanks for the idea!!

whimseycreations said...

I have a recipe for homemade laundry detergent that is wonderful. I've been using it for 3 months and it makes your clothing smell fresh and gets it just as clean as the detergents you buy at the grocery. It costs about $1.50 to make enough to wash 30 loads of laundry. And it takes about 15-20 minutes to make a batch. Just email me at if you'd like the recipe.

Small Footprint's Response to whimseycreations:

I wrote to Whimsey Creations and not only asked for the recipe but asked if we could publish it here. Here is their gracious response:

Absolutely! The original recipe is on the website but I've tweaked it until it works better for me. It just smells so fresh and clean and lemony and your clothes come out of the dryer static free even without a dryer sheet (and there is an idea below about that too).

1 bar Fels Naptha laundry soap (if your grocer doesn't carry it, you can order it per bar or per case from grated into cheese shreds
24 cups water
1/2 cup borax (20 Mule Team Borax)
1/2 cup washing soda (this isn't baking soda - it's in a yellow box in the laundry aisle)

Heat water to simmering in a large pot and add grated soap. Turn heat to low and stir every couple of minutes until soap is dissolved (it takes about 15 minutes). Turn off heat and stir in borax and washing soda. Mix really well to dissolve. Pour into a large plastic bucket to cool (you can find almost 2 gallon ones - 15 quart I think? - at WalMart for about $1.50). It will gel as it cools - will end up very thick - kind of like if pudding was the consistency of jello. You can give it a stir every now and then if you want. Then I store mine in one gallon clear plastic containers with a wide-mouth screw on lid - it makes about one and 3/4 gallons. You can also find those containers (squarish shaped) at WalMart. However, don't pour the hot liquid into them directly because they will melt (been there, done that - they are a different plastic than the bucket LOL). You use 1/2 cup per load of laundry (just keep a 1/4 or 1/2 plastic measuring cup with your soap). Now this doesn't make suds but it really gets your clothes clean. And you can use the Fels Naptha soap bar as a stain pre-treater too - just rub it on before you put your clothing into the washer. You can use this in front loading machines since it doesn't suds. This makes enough to do 25-30 loads of laundry.

For my towels and sheets and things like that I also pour in about 3/4 cup of white distilled vinegar - right in with the soap. It gives them a little extra boost. A gallon of white vinegar is pretty inexpensive and you can add about 2 teaspoons of any essential oil (lemon verbena is wonderful) to it. Just give the container a shake before you pour it out. Your laundry room will smell wonderful but the scent won't stay in your clothing after you dry it.

If you don't want to add dryer sheets to the landfill (and who knows what is in them!) you can take a small muslin drawstring bag and add lemon verbena leaves, lavender, or any combination you want - throw it in the dryer with your clothes, and it should last about 20 or so loads before the scent is gone.

The cost is about $1.50 per batch of soap even if you have to order the Fels Naptha soap and pay shipping! I've seen the soap in some Krogers and friends have said some hardware stores also have it.

Sometimes you just have to take the leap, and build your wings on the way down!

Whimsey Creations

September 24, 2008 5:21 PM

La Pixie said...

I think stressing to people that baby steps are okay is HUGE. people feel like if they dont "go vegan" and recycle everything, then it doesnt count or they arent making a difference. just like with anything, this is a lifestyle change that can be achieved through baby steps.

thanks for visting my blog!!

Glenda said...

I have hear that the simple process of "starting one's vehicle" uses as much gas as letting it idle for thirty mintues! Ever ran across this? Is it a matter of petro vs. pollution?

Small Footprint's Response to Glenda:

Excellent question, Glenda.

I did a little further research on the subject and found that it is better to turn off the engine rather than idle ... unless one has a really, really old car. Here's why ... carburetors today are extremely fuel efficient, only injecting a small amount of fuel into the engine to get it started. In fact, the only time it's more fuel efficient to let a car idle is if one will be idling for less than 10 seconds. Yep ... anything over 10 seconds .. turn it off. One note ... it's not a good idea to turn off one's engine at a street light. In fact, in some US states it's illegal. Here are some sites to visit if you'd like more information:

Thanks for your comment!

Small Footprints

Brian said...

Very good tips. Thank you very much. I find your site to be very informative. Keep up the great work.


Glee Girl said...

Hi there. Thank you so much for your lovely comments on my blog. And what a wonderful coincidence to visit yours and find that it completely meshes with where I'm at right now! I'm thinking about everything I buy - where it's from, if the packaging can be recycled, if it's ethically produced etc - and taking a much more holistic approach to living - trying to be good to me, good to others and good to the planet.

I have subscribed - looking forward to more.

That does it for this month! Thanks, again, to everyone who contributed!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The words of Jane Goodall

I recently read an interview with Jane Goodall. The entire interview is in the July/August, 2008, issue of Body & Soul Magazine. Here's an excerpt:

Q - What can we all do to give back and make a positive change in the world?

A - It starts very simply. Just take a little time to learn more about the consequences of the small choices you make each day. Think about what you wear. Where did it come from? Could you walk or bicycle or take public transport instead of driving? Stop wasting water and don't take it for granted. Don't leave the lights on. Consider what you eat. Where did your food come from? Does it cause huge suffering to animals? Was it the result of child labor? Did it travel far to get to you? Start caring - and start thinking.

Monday, September 22, 2008

15 Energy Saving Tips For Fall

Welcome to fall ... a beautiful time of year ... a time of transition between the hot summer months and the chilly winter ones. It's also the perfect time of year to ensure that the cold winter months stay energy efficient. Here are some ideas:

  1. Clean and test the furnace. Did you know that your furnace needs cleaning? Yep ... it collects all kinds of dust and debris which not only affects it's performance but could cause a fire. Before you really need the heat, get out your owner's manual for instructions on how to clean it. No manual? Check here or call a furnace maintenance company. If you have a gas furnace, have it professionally inspected once a year.

  2. Move furniture or any obstructions from vents, baseboard heaters, registers on the floor or radiators so that air moves freely. This is also a good time to vacuum these areas to remove any dust or debris. And here's a tip if you have a radiator ... place a reflecting panel behind it ... you can purchase one at a home center or make one yourself with a plywood panel and aluminum foil.

  3. Remove window air conditioners for the winter. If they can't be removed, seal them with caulking or tape and cover them with an airtight, insulated jacket.

  4. Vacuum the refrigerator coils to keep the compressor running efficiently. It's also a good time to check that the refrigerator is level ... the door should automatically swing shut instead of staying open. Check the seal on the door ... try closing it on a dollar bill. If you can pull the bill out easily, it's time to replace the gaskets. Here's another tip for running the refrigerator efficiently ... don't over fill it ... allowing room for cool air to circulate will keep everything at the right temperature.

  5. Clean the ducts and area behind the dryer. And don't forget, clean the filter after every use and every once in awhile, give it a good wash.

  6. Check windows for proper caulking. If you have single-pane windows, add storm windows. Even a plastic film over windows will reduce heat loss.

  7. Check doors for weather stripping and replace as necessary. If drafts sneak in under exterior doors, replace the threshold or block the drafts with a rolled-up towel or blanket.

  8. Electrical outlets, especially on outside walls, and light fixtures are prime places for cold air to leak into your home. Add foam gaskets behind covers and switch plates, and use safety plugs in unused outlets. Be sure to shut off the power at the fuse box or circuit panel before doing this.

  9. Install foam covers over outside water spigots to prevent freezing.

  10. Check for water leaks both inside and outside.

  11. Wrap the water heater in an insulating blanket.

  12. If you have a ceiling fan, reverse the direction ... the fan should be run in a clockwise direction (stand under the fan and if you feel a breeze, reverse the direction so that air is being drawn upwards). This pushes the air up against the ceiling and down the walls, to gently re-circulate the warm air without creating a cooling "wind chill effect."

  13. Do you have a fireplace? This is a good time to have the chimney cleaned and get vent systems checked.

  14. If your home has no sidewall insulation, place heavy furniture like bookshelves, armoires and sofas along exterior walls, and use decorative quilts as wall hangings. This will help block cold air.

  15. Bring in any houseplants that have spent the summer outdoors. They'll help clean the air.

A little effort now ... a warm, toasty winter later.

As always, I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Composting in a small space

I've always liked the idea of composting ... enriching the soil with plant matter that would otherwise go into the trash can. From a monetary point of view, it makes sense ... reuse the dirt I have rather than buying new bags of top soil each year. But I thought that composting took a lot of space or required a specialized bin, neither of which I have.

What I do have are planters which are no longer being used and dirt that has done it's duty growing herbs and veggies for our table. So I decided to give composting a try.

First I removed most of the dirt from one container, leaving a couple of inches at the bottom. Then I tossed in bits and pieces of vegetables and fruits ... the stuff which normally gets trimmed and tossed when one is preparing a meal. Next I sprinkled the plant matter with powdered plant food which I've been told will aid in decomposition and will give the soil added nutrients. I covered the whole thing up with another inch or so of dirt to help prevent any smell. Compost needs moisture so ... a quick sprinkle of water came next.

The container I'm using is a rectangular box which hangs on our railing ... like a window box. To ensure that it wouldn't smell and to keep bugs from "bugging" us, I covered the box with a plastic trash bag. This also keeps it warm and moist.

Every few days I add plant matter to the box and a little more dirt and water ... and every week or so I give the whole box a good stir. Mostly we ignore it and let it work.

And guess what ... it's working. I am totally amazed at how quickly plant matter decomposes. As for smell and the "icky" factor ... so far, so good. Here's a tip if you should decide to try this: keep an air tight container (coffee cans with lids work well) in your kitchen for the bits and pieces of veggie matter. That way, you won't have to run to the compost bin after preparing each meal and there won't be any smells in your kitchen.

As the weather cools down and the summer plants fade off, I'll have more containers ... and used dirt ... for composting. Hopefully, by spring, I'll have a bounty of fertile soil for next summer's crops.

Stay tuned ... as this is definitely a work in progress.

Do you compost? If so and you have any tips and/or advice ... send them my way.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Powder vs. Liquid

I'm always searching the web for new and unusual ideas on how to live a greener life. Most searches net the same list of tips. They are valuable and worthy of our attention ... but I keep thinking ... is that it? Is that all we can do? I don't think so ... but finding those little jewels of knowledge is like trying to find that proverbial pin in a haystack.

Persistence, however, pays ... and that brings us to today's post.

I've never given laundry detergent much thought beyond whether or not it contains phosphates (which, by the way, are bad for the environment). But recently I came across an article which stated that powdered detergents are better for the environment than liquid varieties. This was news to me.

Liquid detergents (and this goes for dishwasher as well and laundry detergents) are 75% water. The concentrated varieties are bit better but not by much. Liquid detergents are usually packaged in plastic which is hard to recycle. Powdered detergents, on the other hand, contain no added water and are usually packaged in biodegradable boxes or bags.

Liquid varieties are heavier than the powdered ones and that's important when it comes to travel. Simply put ... the heavier the item, the higher the cost to haul it to your grocer's shelf.

So ... it turns out that using powdered laundry detergent is kinder to the environment.

That's my little "jewel" for today!

As always, I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Take the stairs ...

Here's an easy tip for saving energy ... and our planet.

Take the stairs instead of an elevator.

Simple, right? OK ... if a walk up those stairs is daunting, consider cutting your elevator use in half by riding up ... then walking down. You'll not only save energy, you'll get some exercise as well.

That's what I call a "win-win" situation.

As always, I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, September 12, 2008

14 Ways to Conserve Paper

I once read that paper is precious because of the thoughts and sentiments that are written on it ... once written, the ideas are forever released and shared with the world. I personally believe that paper is precious because of the natural resources that were used to make it. Every piece of virgin paper represents the consumption of trees, water, electricity, etc.

Conserving paper not only saves our natural resources, it saves us money as well. Most paper products are rather expensive and ... let's face it ... paper is usually a "single use" product. So here are some ideas for conserving it:
  1. Use cloth napkins instead of paper varieties.
  2. Check junk mail packages for usable paper. The backs of 8-1/2 x 11 sheets can often be used as printing paper, scratch paper, telephone message pads or coloring sheets for your kids.
  3. Instead of using new envelopes, use envelopes that come in bills, credit card offers, etc. Cross out or white out the company's address or use a label to cover it up. Another idea, glue pieces of other "waste" paper over the address.
  4. Save receipts from stores, libraries and banks and use the backs as shopping lists.
  5. Instead of printing out online receipts, save them as a file on your computer.
  6. Pay your bills online rather than receive an invoice in the mail.
  7. Use the back as well as the front of paper ... set your printer to double sided printing instead of single sided.
  8. Use cloth cleaning rags instead of paper towels.
  9. Use reusable dishes instead of paper plates.
  10. Use as little toilet paper as possible.
  11. Decorate, paint or color on the back of used sheets of paper and use them as gift wrapping.
  12. Recycle any paper that can't be used further.
  13. Write or call advertisers to get your name off their mailing list.
  14. Buy recycled paper products whenever possible.

Perhaps if we follow these ideas, we can reduce paper production to the point where the only paper produced will hold lofty ideas ... shared with the world.

As always, I would love to hear from you. Let me know how you walk gently on the earth.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Perfect Whole!

Reducing our footprint on the earth means more to me than just recycling or using less energy. To me, it's also about considering one's actions and ensuring that those actions don't have a negative impact on the earth or anything that lives on it.

History is full of examples where actions were taken without thought about negative impact. In the early 1930's, much of our country's forests were decimated through logging. This wasn't the responsible, replant the forest, kind of logging ... this was clear cutting ... period. This left the land vulnerable to wind and rain and the result was severe erosion. Luckily, President Roosevelt and the CCC implemented a reforestation program which is considered responsible for the lush, beautiful forests that we enjoy today throughout much of the country.

In the mid 1920's, wolves were exterminated from Yellowstone National Park. The result was an overpopulation of animals normally on a wolf's "menu". This lead to other imbalances in both plant and animal life. In 1995 wolves were reintroduced to the park. Within two years, the project was considered a success. If you would like to read more about this, click here.

These examples are big and aren't the kinds of decisions that we, as individuals, normally have to make. But even small actions have consequences.

Recently I happened to be in a campground located in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The campground was surrounded by a beautiful forest and located near a river. The setting was lovely. On my way to the bathroom, I noticed something hanging off the trash dumpster. It was a bee trap. Inside, hundreds of dead bees were stacked up and towards the top, two bees were struggling to escape. They never would. I have great compassion for all living creatures so the site broke my heart. Why, in the forest, would someone find it necessary to exterminate insects? The answer amazed me. A short distance from the dumpster, several hummingbird feeders were placed in a tree by the camp host and evidently they wanted to ensure that only hummingbirds were fed. OK ... but what is the result of this decision? Hundreds of bees lay dead in a container instead of flying around the forest, pollinating as they go. And that means that plant life suffers. And when plant life suffers ... we're not far behind. One may argue that it was just one trap. But what if a lot of traps are put out ... what happens to our pollinators?

We seem to believe that it's OK to kill anything that bothers us. But there is always a consequence to those actions.

So here's what I'm suggesting. Start with the belief that everything works together to create a perfect whole. Labels such as "pest" are just that ... a label ... not necessarily a fact. Instead of killing a critter, try dissuading it or just move it out of the way. I do that with spiders all the time ... they seem to love my house so I just pick them up and move them outside. And when putting out any type of feeder, be tolerant of all critters that come to eat. After all, nature doesn't discriminate ... why should we. Basically I'm saying, live and let live.

As always, I'd love to hear your comments on this subject.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tomus Arcanum

We received a very nice introduction on a blog called Tomus Arcanum. To read it, click HERE. Thank you to the author of Tomus Arcanum for taking the time to check us out and share our location with others.

While you're there, take a look around. On this blog, as well as the "sister" blogs (you can see a list of them here), there are interesting and thought provoking posts, lovely pictures and a lot to keep one entertained. I hope you'll drop by and give it a look.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Cool Summer Cooking

We were getting ready to cook dinner the other day and wanted to make stuffed peppers ... a food that we've typically cooked in the oven. Beautiful fresh green peppers sat on the counter waiting to be prepared but ... it was one of the hotter days around here ... in the 90's ... and the prospect of turning on the oven and heating up the house even further was making me lose my appetite. In fact, even turning on the stove to cook some rice seemed to heat up the apartment to uncomfortable levels. So what could we do?

We could turn on the A/C while we cook but ... heating up the place just to then have to cool it seems like such a waste.

We could make sandwiches instead but ... sooner or later we're bound to want something cooked.

We could use a grill but ... our apartment managers frown on personal grills on patios.

We could forget it altogether and go out to a restaurant but ... that's expensive, uses gas to get there and is usually less healthy than what we cook at home.

And then ... a light bulb moment. We could use an electric frying pan.

Countertop appliances like electric frying pans, woks, rice cookers and microwaves typically use less energy to cook food. We have found that they heat up faster so cooking begins immediately rather than waiting for the oven or stove to reach cooking temperatures. In addition, less heat escapes into the room ... a real bonus in the summer months.

This method does, however, take some imagination and creativity with recipes which were designed for the oven. For example, rather than prepare our stuffed peppers in the traditional way, we took the ingredients, chopped them up and cooked them together in the frying pan. They didn't look exactly the same as the oven variety but the taste was just as good. We ate a delicious, home-cooked meal in a cool apartment.

So, before turning on the stove or oven, see if there's a countertop appliance that can do the job. It will save energy and keep your house cooler. One drawback, however ... you won't be able to claim that you've slaved in a hot kitchen anymore.

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.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The "Best" Shave

Part of my evolution in walking more gently on the earth has been to take a look at everything in my life ... the things I do, the things I buy ... and consider all the options available, with an eye to reducing my footprint. Recently, I received an email about disposable razors and how they aren't environmentally friendly. Personally, I rarely buy anything labeled "disposable". To me, it just conjures up images of landfills being filled with products that never decompose ... like plastic.

While I don't buy or use disposable razors, the subject got me thinking about the alternatives and which is the best choice. At first, I thought one of those shaving "systems" would be best ... you know the ones ... they have a plastic handle and one changes the blade every so often. But wait ... the blade is usually encased in some kind of plastic. Then I thought about an electric razor ... it lasts for a long time but ... it uses electricity. There's also the safety razor ... no plastic ... a blade made of metal that can be recycled ... but, harder to use. So which is best?

I started searching the Internet for answers and found pros and cons for each shaving method. After a lot of reading and investigating, here's how I think razors stack up:
  • The best option, of course, is not shaving at all ... no razors to even think about. This can mean becoming hairy or using a hair removal system like waxing or sugaring. A note of caution here ... some hair removal systems have a real "Ow Ow Ow" factor.
  • Next comes the Safety Razor ... no plastic, lasts practically forever and all parts can be recycled. The downside: safety razors take some practice and are harder to use (be prepared for a few nicks and cuts).
  • The third best in my list is the Electric Razor. It lasts a long time and doesn't use much energy, especially if one only charges it up as needed and doesn't leave it constantly plugged in.
  • Fourth on my list is the Razor "System" with a reusable plastic handle and blades that last quite a while. It will eventually find it's way to the landfill but it takes awhile to get there.
  • Last is the Disposable Razor which has a short life and ends up in a landfill. One note if this is your choice ... I've read that placing the head of a disposable razor in a cup of olive oil will extend it's life. After each use, clean it well, dry it and place it in the cup. Supposedly it will not only extend the life of the razor but offer a closer shave as well.

I'd love to know what choice you make and why ... so drop me a line.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Vegan Recipe - "Save a Chicken" Salad

Since I advocate meatless meals as an easy way to be kinder to the earth, it was suggested that I occasionally include a vegan/vegetarian recipe. So here goes: the following recipe is a great sandwich spread. I hope you enjoy it!

"Save a Chicken" Salad

Servings: 3-4 Sandwiches

1-2 cups Chick Peas (garbanzos)
1-2 tablespoons Onions, diced
1/2 cup Pickles, diced
2 heaping tablespoons Dijon Mustard
1 teaspoon Olive Oil
2 tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
1/4 cup Juice from pickles

Mash the chick peas ... I've found that the best tool for this is my hands (clean, of course).
Add in the remaining ingredients and mix well.
Scoop as much or as little as you like into a sandwich, add lettuce (if desired) ... and eat.

  • Canned chick peas (garbanzos) work in this recipe but aren't as good as the dried ones, freshly cooked. Cooking chick peas is easy and it eliminates the added salt and preservatives found in the canned variety. If you use the canned variety, be sure to rinse them well ... this will remove about 50% of the sodium.
  • Any kind of vegetables can be added. Try diced celery instead of pickles or add chopped tomatoes and shredded lettuce to the mix.
  • All of my measurements are approximate and based on our tastes. I suggest adding flavors slowly, tasting along the way and adjusting quantities to one's own preference.

Please note: this recipe has been endorsed by Chickens everywhere. :)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Turn off the engine

Today I was at the bank ... the drive-thru window to be precise. The tellers were busier than usual and my transaction was taking awhile. I noticed that there were three other cars in line ... all with their engines idling.

At fast food drive-thru windows, it's the same thing ... orders take awhile to fill and while waiting, the line-up of cars idle away.

And what about when we get into our vehicles ... most of us start the car, then get settled. We adjust the mirror, put on the seat belt, check the cell phone ... all while our car idles ... and pollutes.

So here's an easy idea ... turn off the engine. When you're waiting for the teller at the bank or your food from a drive-thru, turn off the engine. When you get into your car, make all your adjustments first, then start the car. By the way ... at this time of year, there really isn't a reason to let your car warm up before driving away.

Pay attention to all the times that a car is idling without moving and see if the engine can be turned off at those times. Every little bit will help!

As always, I'd love to hear from you.