Monday, December 13, 2010

Making Dirt is Easy ...

Our current challenge is about composting, specifically the "how-to" of composting, so I thought I'd share my experiences and thoughts on the process with you. As some of you know, I live in an apartment and have a small patio where I grow herbs and vegetables each summer. After several years of spending money on potting soil, seeds and plant food ... and not really getting a bumper crop ... I decided it was time to try my hand at composting. I was hesitant because I thought that composting was messy and smelled ... two things which wouldn't be convenient during the summer when the patio door is left open. But ... I write a blog about green living so ... how could I NOT give it a try.

As with everything I try out, I started with a bit of research. That, in itself, was daunting because the information I found suggested that creating the perfect balance of dry matter to wet matter, and providing the perfect environment for microbial activity, took careful planning and precise action. Some articles said that I'd need to sprinkle certain compounds on the pile ... some said that I'd need to carefully measure the temperature so as not to cook the microbial "critters". The more that I read, the more disheartened I became ... it seemed that composting was a lot of work!

In reality, composting is easy! I started with a 10-gallon plastic planter ... you know the ones ... they are the containers which trees and bushes are planted in at nurseries. I tossed in a few inches of soil. The veggie bits and scraps came next covered by a couple of inches of dry matter (dried leaves, shredded newspaper, etc.). Another couple of inches of soil on top finished the bin. I covered the bin with a plastic bag (Eco-friendly, of course) and let it sit. When I had a container full of veggie scraps to take out, I stirred the bin, layered the scraps, dry matter and another couple of inches of soil ... and, again, let it sit. When one bin was full, we started another.

In the spring, a rather amazing thing happened ... all of the veggie scraps had disappeared and in their place ... rich, dark soil. I didn't need to buy soil ... didn't need to buy fertilizer ... and that year, we had the best tomatoes ever.

I've been composting ever since. Here are a few tips and thoughts:

  • Covering the compost bin is important if it is near your patio or an area which is frequently used. Composting materials do smell and bugs, an important element to decomposition, can be annoying.

  • Shredded toilet paper rolls make excellent dry material. They are made from trees (carbohydrates) and microbial critters, bugs, etc. love them.

  • During rainy days, worms find their way to our patio and walkway. Typically, they crawl to a dry space and die. So ... we save their lives. We wrangle them up and place them in the compost bin. They get a dry environment with three "squares" a day ... and we get compost. By the way, when I recently opened my original bin, nice fat worms were munching on a sweet potato.

  • It isn't necessary to sort out any "left-over" veggie matter when using the newly composted soil ... think of it as added nutrition for your plants. They will continue to benefit as the items decompose.

  • While composting in the winter is a slower process (those critters prefer to be warm and cozy), it does continue. So compost all year long.

  • When planting, add some dry matter to the planter. I add a layer of leaves to the bottom half of the planting area, top with soil and then add seeds or plants. The dry matter keeps young plants warm and, once they are established, provides nutrients.

  • Many things are compostable. We prefer plant matter and never compost cooked items. In my opinion, composting animal products and/or cooked foods invites bad smells and undesirable animals.

  • Composted soil can be used for planting container gardens, mixing into larger, outdoor gardens, sprinkling around existing plants and trees, planting indoor plants and sprinkling over lawns.


Composting is truly turning trash into treasure. It doesn't take precise actions or day-to-day monitoring ... it basically works on it's own. The results are Eco-friendly, frugal and ensure that you'll grow healthy, happy plants. Who knew we could make our own dirt? I hope you'll give it a try!

As always, I would love to hear from you!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Five Free Apps Interviews ... Me!

Happy Monday, Everyone!

Today I'd like to invite you to head over to Five Free Apps. My bloggy buddy, Brian, recently interviewed me and wow ... he asks such thoughtful (and tough) questions. It was a fun interview! So if you have a moment, head on over and check it out ... who knows what you'll learn about yours truly!




After you've read the interview, be sure to look around. Five Free Apps is an amazing resource of information. Brian not only presents us with the best of the best on the Internet, he checks out each link so if he recommends it, we can trust it.

Thanks, so much, to Brian for having me over!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Vegan Recipe - Baked Apple Raisin Oatmeal

It's the first Friday of the month and that means another delicious, vegan recipe. Why? Because meatless meals are one of the easiest ways to walk gently on the earth. Recipes like this one, or the ones found on our recipe page, are guaranteed to please even the most devout carnivore.

This month's recipe comes from The Knowlton Nest. It's easy to put together and delicious. I think it would be perfect for a holiday brunch or for a yummy family breakfast. Thanks to Shonda who graciously agreed to share it with us!



Baked Apple Raisin Oatmeal

2 2/3 c. old fashioned oatmeal
1/2 c. raisins
1/4 c. maple syrup
1/4 c. brown sugar
2 t. cinnamon
4 c. soymilk
2 unpeeled chopped apples
walnuts for topping

Mix altogether. Put in greased 9x13 in pan. Bake at 350 for 45-50 min.


Doesn't that make your mouth water? Thanks, again, to Shonda for sharing this recipe with us.

If you have a vegan recipe to share, we'd love to try it. Just Email Me.

As always ... I would love to hear from you!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday (evening) Film Fest

My bloggy friend, Joe Todd, sent this over ... it's a brilliant couple of minutes.




Have a great weekend, everyone ... and thanks, Joe, for our Friday Film!

Monday, November 22, 2010

600 Followers!!

Wow ... we have reached another milestone!!

Reduce Footprints has 600 followers!

And who, you may be asking, is number 600? It's a brand new blog called The Eco Vine Blog. From their profile, "The Eco Vine is a community for people striving to live a greener life! Whether you're a full fledged earth hugger, or just starting out, come on by!" The Eco Vine blog is the companion to The Eco Vine Community ... a site where members can share ideas, link to their blogs, etc. So hop on over and get involved at the very beginning of what promises to be a great, Eco-friendly group.

Thanks to everyone who has helped to spread the green word ... and especially to all of Reduce Footprints' fabulous followers!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Film Fest

Before we start our film, I'd like to share something with you. My dear bloggy friend Ana Lopes, of My Sacred Grove, honored me with an award ... The Dardos Award. The Dardos Award is "bestowed for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing. These stamps were created with the intention of promoting fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing affection and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web."



Isn't that nice? I'd like to thank Ana for this lovely award ... and sentiment. The rules of the award state that recipients should post the award on their blog (mine is in the side bar) and then pass it on to blogs they feel are worthy. Therein lies my problem ... I follow so many wonderful blogs and it would be impossible to choose a few to honor. So, with Ana's permission, I'm giving this award to all of you ... to everyone I follow and to everyone who visits this site. Please take the badge, put it on your blog and pass it on. And please accept my thanks for all that you do to add value to the web!

Thank you, Ana ... I hope Reduce Footprints will always live up to that high standard!

Okay ... ready for our feature presentation?

Awhile back I shared the Story of Stuff with you. Annie Leonard, in a very understandable way, talked about ... well ... Stuff ... and how it moves from natural resource to, eventually, the landfill. It was a brilliant video and if you've never seen it, I highly recommend it.

Annie Leonard is back with a new video called The Story of Electronics. After the film, be sure to click on the link below to find out how you can help change the system.

I hope you enjoy:




To find out what you can do, please click HERE.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Field Trip

How about a little field? Would you like to take a break from your hectic day and see something new? Yes? Okay then ... click on the Eco-friendly bus below and I'll "see" you there:


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Take a moment ...

One leaf drifted to the river ... and floated, peacefully, along. No other human in the world witnessed that particular leaf release itself from the tree and float off ... that thought filled me with awe. As the sun slowly dipped behind the mountains, birds sang their "good night" song ... some chattered and chirped to each other ... maybe discussing their day. A small snake lay on the path, not ready to leave the warmth of the spot ... he didn't like our presence and preferred to be left alone.

We are encouraged to get ready for the holidays ... to spend our money ... to shop now and avoid the crowds. Posts are showing up everywhere about how to deal with holiday stress and people are anxious ... will there be enough time to do everything.

So I invite you today to step outside. Breathe deeply and feel the sun on your skin. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you ... can you hear nature? Take a moment to watch the spider building a web or a squirrel burying it's fall harvest.

Breathe.

Take a moment ...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Savvier Greener Ways to Redecorate Your Rooms by Caroline Smith

I'd like to introduce you to Caroline Smith who has kindly offered to talk to us about "green" redecorating. So sit back and enjoy:

Savvier Greener Ways to Redecorate Your Rooms

I’ve been looking at my front room for weeks thinking it needs a change. Maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s just that we women like to decorate, but this happens every few months. When the urge to redecorate hits, it can be tempting to hop into the car and zoom on over to Ikea, taking time to stroll the aisles and place item after item in the cart.

Don’t misunderstand, there’s nothing wrong with making a few mindful purchases to revive a room, but this little habit adds up fast. Since I’ve started becoming more mindful of my effect on the environment, I have been thinking about greener ways to give my rooms a new look. Small steps to a more environmentally responsible lifestyle can be easy, and it can start with me. Here’s my eco-friendly plan to makeover my living room:

1. Reorganization – Ikea may not be helping my eco-makeover by providing frames and fun vases, but they can provide me with style ideas. It’s easy to rearrange the goods you’ve already got to look like a room off the glossy pages of an interior design magazine. My place isn’t all that big, and Ikea are known for using space in creative ways. When it comes down to it, most of us own plenty of knick knacks and end tables – so instead of a redecoration I’m looking at reorganization. Reuse and recycle is a green mantra, and it can be a fun challenge to create a new look with stuff you already own. If you have any trouble moving the larger pieces of furniture, I’ve found that a handy bribe of pizza afterwards can do wonders…

2. Slipcover Savings – Since I’m both making steps at greener living and watching my budget, any purchases I make need to make the most change in my room as well as helping me minimize my impact on the environment. Slipcovers are an amazing way to easily bring style and function. They are available in many colors and fabrics, and easily found online, some sites even offering coupons. They are simple to use, and can change the look of a room instantly. Instead of buying another sofa and seeing mine carted off to sit in a landfill, I’m going to reduce my footprint and invest in a new slipcover. I’m a chronic drinks spiller – coffee, tea, water, juice, I don’t discriminate about what kind of liquid should spill onto the sofa. Slipcovers are easy to clean, just throw them into the wash, saving years of wear on your furniture.

3. Freecycle Fun - Freecycle is both an eco-friendly organization, and completely addictive. In the course of my reorganization I’ve found many items I don’t use anymore. Instead of taking them to a garbage dump, I’ve decided to list them on Freecyle and donate to some other designing diva’s d├ęcor. Freecycle is like bargain hunting, except I’m not actually spending any money. I feel good knowing my treasures will find new homes, and have fun finding new treasures myself!

I’m enjoying the challenge of looking at the task of redecorating from a green perspective. It’s fun to be creative and find new ways to reuse items I already have and give my rooms a totally new image in the process. I’ve learned that there are lots of easy ways to recycle old things to give them an updated new look and particularly like the idea of Freecycling, which has proved that one person’s trash is another’s treasure!

This is a guest post by Caroline Smith, who believes being green doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. She runs a website that offers a range of slipcovers for sofas which make it easy to prolong the life of old furniture and save it from landfill. Caroline thinks that if we all make small changes in our daily lives to lesson our footprint on the planet, we can collectively make a big difference.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Vegan Recipes - Black Bean Burger Mix & Sweet Potato Enchiladas

It's the first Friday of the month and that means it's time to share a vegan recipe. Now you might be wondering why meatless meals show up on a green-living site. Well, the fact is that it takes less water and natural resources to produce one pound of plant-based food than it does to produce animal-based food. Even incorporating a few meatless meals into your diet each week does a lot to help the planet.
This month we have two wonderful recipes. The first one comes from Rachelle, an email subscriber. You might remember Rachelle ... she suggested our Change The World Wednesday challenge last week. Her recipe not only looks delicious but it's versatile, as well. And, she tells me that she's shared these burgers with die-hard meat eaters and they have loved them.
The second recipe comes from Trainer Momma. I found her blog and this recipe while browsing the Internet and she graciously gave me permission to republish it here.
Both of these recipes, along with a whole list of others, can always be found by clicking the tab at the top of this blog.
Okay ... ready to eat? I hope you enjoy these recipes:

BLACK BEAN BURGER MIX
Compliments of Rachelle
Ingredients:
One 26.5 oz Bush’s Best Black Beans (Drain and rinse the beans with water ,let them dry as much as you can . Putting them in a colander works best)
Vegan Egg Substitute for 2 eggs (original recipe calls for 1 or 2 eggs)
One green bell pepper,chopped finely by hand or cut into med size pieces for food processor
One medium to large onion, chopped finely by hand or cut into pieces for the food processor
3 Tablespoons chopped garlic
1/4 to 1 cup plain bread crumbs
Spices of your choice from the list below
Method:
Once beans are dry place them in a good size bowl and mash them. I have used a potato masher and even a pastry cutter to do this. Add finely chopped Green Pepper and Onion. Add 3 tablespoons of chopped garlic.
In another bowl mix together vegan egg mixture and the spices of your choice.
Add the egg mixture and bread crumbs into the black bean mixture and mix until you get a ground beef-like thickness. Add a bit of water or more bread crumbs if needed for desired thickness.
Cut wax paper or parchment paper into burger-sized rectangular pieces (should be able to fit a burger leaving enough paper to fold over and cover it).
Take the bean mixture and measure out the size burger you want. Press it into a hamburger patty shape. Keep in mind this is a bean burger and will not shrink during cooking like real meat. I find a thinner patty works best.
Place the patty on the paper and fold the paper over to cover. Keep doing this until the mixture is used up.
Place the burgers in a freezer safe container and freeze overnight or at least 5 to 6 hours.
When you are ready to make your meal take the amount of patties needed out of the freezer.
These patties can be prepared in the following ways:
Grill directions:
Heat your grill up on high heat. Take foil and cover it with a thin layer of oil. Grill the patties for 8 to 10 min on each side (depending on the thickness of your patties). I have grilled these directly on the grill before with a lot of success when I was out of foil. I would use the foil the first time until you feel confident without it.
Oven directions:
Heat oven to 375. Lightly oil a pan or use a non stick pan and bake 10 to 12 min. on each side.
You can add a variety of spices and use this mixture for several different meals. Pick one below or make up your favorite.
For a Mexican flavor use these spices:
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon hot sauce
This mixture can be used for Mexican burgers. After grilling or baking crumble it up for tacos, burritos, or taco salad. Make the burgers extra thin and after baking or grilling you can place them between two flour or corn tortillas with a little cheese and than grill this for a quesadilla. Add your favorite topping and your good to go.
Italian:
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
Replace the plain bread crumbs with Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1 or 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
After grilling or baking serve as a burger, serve on Italian bread with spaghetti sauce and mozzarella for a meatless meatball sub., or cut up and use for pizza topping.
Steak burger:
1 or 2 tablespoons of your favorite steak sauce
1 tablespoon of Worchester sauce
Use your imagination with spice combinations the possibilities are endless.

SWEET POTATO ENCHILADAS
Compliments of Trainer Momma
Ingredients:
2 sweet potatoes, peeled, cooked, and mashed
4 Tb fresh cilantro, chopped and divided
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup water
2 Tb chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 Tb soy sauce, reduced sodium
7 or 8 whole wheat tortillas or Flatout Bread
baby spinach leaves, torn
1 can green chili enchilada sauce
1 handful of vegan cheddar cheese (original recipe called for cheddar cheese, reduced-fat)
Method:
Peel, cook, and mash sweet potatoes (I steam mine in the microwave until tender).
Mix sweet potatoes and 2 Tb of cilantro in a bowl.
In a medium sized pan, spray nonstick cooking spray. Saute onions on medium high heat until they are translucent. Add garlic, stir for 1 minute. Add beans, water, chili powder, cumin, and soy sauce. Cook and stir until most of the water has been evaporated. Mix in the remainder of the cilantro and remove from heat.
In a tortilla, put 2 Tb or so of sweet potato mixture, then 2 spoonfuls of bean mixture and top with some torn spinach. Roll up and place in a lightly sprayed baking dish. Repeat for the rest of the enchiladas.
Top with enchilada sauce and cheese.
Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes until cheese is golden brown.
Makes 7 servings. 215 calories per serving.
Thanks to both Rachelle and Trainer Momma for sharing these recipes with us. If you have a vegan recipe which you'd like to share, please send it to me using the email address in the left side bar.
As always ... I would love to hear from you!




Monday, November 1, 2010

Dianna Cohen: Tough truths about plastic pollution

This is a wonderful video ... only about 5 minutes long. I hope you'll watch it and pass it along!





As always ... I would love to hear from you!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Getting ready for Halloween

It's that time of year again ... when the veil between the living and the dead becomes thin and spirits can be seen walking the earth. Shadows come alive and threaten to grab us ... witches fly and ghosts materialize before our very eyes.


In other words ... it's almost Halloween and time for our annual "Spooky" post!






Question: What's the ratio of a pumpkin's circumference to its diameter?

Answer: Pumpkin Pi






It's almost Halloween ... that creepy night of ghosts and ghouls. Little goblins everywhere are getting ready. Can Moms and Dads make it green? Well sure!! Here are some tricks and treats ... I mean tips:

-Are you going to carve a pumpkin ... or decorate one?
  • If you haven't grown your own, buy one from a local farm or farmer's market.
  • Use every part of the pumpkin. The seeds can be toasted and eaten as snacks ... they are healthy and taste great. One can toast them in the oven or in a dry frying pan on the stove. When they are brown, carefully remove them (they are very hot at this stage) and immediately sprinkle your favorite seasoning on them (mine is creole seasoning but kids might prefer something less spicy ... like a little salt). Not in the mood for toasting seeds? Try tossing them, either wet or dry, into the yard for birds ... they love them.
  • Use the flesh of the pumpkin to make a pie, soup, cookies or flan ... it might require a bit more sugar than the smaller, pie pumpkins.
  • After Halloween ... compost the shell instead of sending it to the landfill.

Question: How do you mend a broken Jack-O-Lantern?

Answer: With a pumpkin patch



-Are you planning a party for your little ones?
  • Send email invitations rather than the "snail mail" variety. There are a lot of seriously spooky e-cards on the Internet.
  • Use re-usable plates, cups, utensils, napkins and tablecloths. Paper party goods can be expensive and just add more clutter to our nation's landfills.
  • Serve some healthy, fun treats that aren't individually wrapped ... popcorn, apples, fruit leather (in the shape of worms and snakes) and ghostly cookie skeletons.
-Get creative with costumes.
  • Make costumes from old clothes (downsize adult suits, dresses, etc.)
  • Check your closets for "retro" clothing (got any old "hippie" duds? Cool, dude!).
  • Pull out costume jewelry ... little princesses, gypsies and pirates love "bling".
  • Hats of any kind can "top off" an outfit.
  • Shop at Goodwill ... they have not only organized merchandise into a special Halloween section but also offer some creative costumes ideas made from second-hand garb.
These are just a few ideas. I'm sure that with a little thought ... you can conjure up a few of your own.














OK ... one more ... then I'll stop ... I promise!


Question: What is a pumpkin's favorite sport?

Answer: Squash



OK ... I'm done!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Green Living With Pets

"According to an August 6th 2007 issue of Business Week magazine, we spend 41 billion dollars on our pets annually." ... from WikiAnswers

I have an adorable cat! She's also, like many pets, finicky ... she likes one kind of canned food and one kind of dry food. When I shop for her, I find myself thinking that I should buy her other things ... give her a variety of tastes (purely a "human" thing to do). And she always turns her nose up at the new offerings. But just look at those shelves filled with every kind of flavor and texture ... cans of organic food, natural food, vitamin-enriched food ... food recommended by veterinarians, food your pet will thank you for and food rated #1 by cats everywhere (hm ... my cat was never asked to vote).

As I looked around the pet store, I realized that purchasing pet products is an emotional experience ... and big business knows that. It also tends to be an area of our lives where we don't think much about the environment or green living. We see pet toys and think how Fido will love them rather than about what they are made of. We buy flea collars, sprays and drops to protect our animals without reading and understanding the ingredient list. There are cute little outfits to keep our critters warm in the winter, comfy looking beds and collars of every color and style ... and in truth, how many of us consider the "greeness" of these products?

Living with pets can be done in an Eco-friendly way. Here are some tips:

  • When buying pet food, consider packaging. Look for recyclable containers and forgo single-serving packages for bulk or large bags/cans.

  • Consider buying organic pet food and treats.

  • Choose Eco-friendly bowls and dishes for your pet's food ... glass, ceramic, stainless steel, etc.

  • To control fleas, opt for Eco-friendly methods rather than buying pet store remedies. Most pet store remedies contain a whole list of toxins which are not only bad for the environment but bad for your pet as well. Click HERE for a good article on natural, earth-friendly flea control methods.

  • Most pets enjoy toys. Choose items which are made from recycled products or ones made out of natural, sustainable materials like hemp. And don't forget that many of the items you have around the house can work as toys ... our cat's favorite toy is a shoe lace swinging from a hook under the counter.

  • Clean up after your pet. Pet waste contains parasites which can spread to other animals and humans. It also contains bacteria and nitrogen. When it rains, these components are washed into storm drains and can find their way to streams, rivers, etc. Safely dispose of pet waste by either flushing it down the toilet (sewage treatment plants effectively remove all harmful components) or bagging it (use biodegradable bags).

  • If you have a cat, choose plant-based litter. Clay litter is strip-mined ... a process which is bad for the planet. And as tempting as those self-cleaning litter boxes seem, consider the amount of energy used to run them and opt, instead, for doing it yourself ... a little more effort but much better for the earth.

  • Does your pet travel? Choose parks, vets, etc. which are close to home to minimize driving distance. Or, better yet, walk (good for you and good for your pet).

  • Choose a recycled pet ... adopt from a shelter.

  • Have your pet spayed/neutered. How is this "green"? Consider what happens if a single cat has multiple liters of kittens. Typically they become too difficult for the owner to deal with ... and often unwanted animals are released and left to fend for themselves. Populations continue to grow creating problems. For example, bird populations decrease in areas with large feral cat populations. For animals not abandoned, there are shelters ... but with growing numbers of unwanted pets, animals are being destroyed.
Having a pet is one of the pleasures of life. With a little thought, we can pamper our four-legged family members in a safe, environmentally-friendly way.

As always, I would love to hear from you!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day - Water




Today is
Blog Action Day. From the Blog Action site: "Blog Action Day is an annual event held every October 15 that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking a global discussion and driving collective action."

In supportive of this movement, I've updated a post I originally published over two years ago. I think it's still applicable.

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 Preserve. 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!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Saving Seeds

For several years, I've been growing herbs and vegetables in containers on my apartment patio. In the beginning, I purchased bags of soil ... and for several years later, continued to buy bags of soil. Then it occurred to me that I could compost ... even in a small space. So, using a large planter, the process was started. All of our veggie peels, seeds, etc. (anything which would normally be tossed or sent down the disposal) was added to the bin. The compost did it's job, without smells, and provided us with lovely, nutrient-rich soil for the next year's planting.

An interesting "by the way" happened in the lettuce bin ... other plants were growing. Were they weeds? Nope ... they were tomato and squash plants ... volunteer plants. Evidently, some of the seeds which lay dormant in the compost bin, were now ready to grow. And grow they did! They grew and produced ... sweet tomatoes and delicious squash. They were healthy and hardy ... and better than anything we've ever eaten.

The next year, the same thing happened. Volunteer plants grew and provided us with the best produce in our garden.

So I began to think about collecting seeds. It turns out that collecting seeds is easy. When we sliced an heirloom tomato, cut into a squash or trimmed the green beans, we took some of the seeds and placed them on a paper napkin (I know ... better not to use paper napkins but read on and you'll see that even they are used). Once the seeds completely dried, they were put in envelopes (a great use for those return envelopes that come in the mail with advertisements). The seeds were then stored in a dry place for the next year.

When it was time to plant, we cut small sections of the paper napkins, with the seeds stuck to them, and planted ... seeds and paper together. The paper decomposed (wonderful recycling) and the seeds grew. And then they produced ... strong, healthy vegetables.

Collecting seeds is economical (just check the price of a small packet of seeds). It's earth-friendly because those seeds, which typically get tossed out and sent to a landfill where there isn't enough oxygen to grow, will be used. There's also something fascinating about collecting seeds ... the idea that the lineage of a plant goes on and the vegetables which we eat have a history. It's like touching the best part of the past.

So ... today's tip is easy ... save some seeds for next year's garden.

As always, I would love to hear from you!

Monday, October 4, 2010

9 Ways To Reduce Energy Use

In western North Carolina, the weather has changed a lot in the last week. We went from hot, summer-like days to don't-forget-your-jacket weather ... seemingly overnight. At a community event over the weekend, some of my neighbors and I were discussing electricity bills and ways to lower them. We shared ideas so ... I thought I might share them with you, too. Here they are:

  1. If you have an electric water heater, turn it off. As convenient as it is to have hot water ready when you want it, keeping it hot takes a lot of energy. So, to really cut usage ... beyond turning the temperature down and insulating the tank (which are both effective tools) ... try turning it off. If your water tank doesn't have an on/off switch, turn it off at the circuit box. Then, experiment with how long to keep it on to suit your needs. Keep in mind that it isn't necessary to wash your clothing or your dishes in hot water. We've found that approximately one hour a day, close to when we'll need it, is plenty for our household of two people. One note ... this is for electric water heaters only ... if you have a gas water heater, turn the thermostat down, but don't turn it off.

  2. Turn off the furnace whenever possible and when it's on, keep the thermostat set low. Put on an extra shirt or two. Use blankets while watching TV in the evening. Make use of the tips we shared in 24 Tips for Fall. Get some exercise ... yep, exercise will warm you up.

  3. Do you have rooms which you aren't using? No sense warming them along with the rest of the house. So, close the vents in those rooms and shut the door ... you'll save the cost, and energy, of heating it up.

  4. Use counter top appliances rather than the stove and oven. Items like a toaster oven, crock pot or electric skillet will save a bundle on electricity bills. If you choose to use the oven, turn it off 5 minutes before the dish is done ... there will be enough heat inside to finish cooking your food. And once the dish is removed, leave the oven door open to make use of the heat in the room.

  5. When doing laundry, plan it out so that as soon as one load is finished in the dryer, the next load is ready to go ... this will keep your dryer from cooling down which will shorten the amount of time necessary to dry the next load. And always do full loads ... partial loads are energy hogs.

  6. Open your curtains during the day and close them at night. During the day when the sun shines in, make use of the heat. At night when it gets cool, insulate the room by closing them.

  7. Unplug it when it's not in use. This applies to almost every electrical device in your home. There are some exceptions ... for example, one shouldn't turn off the refrigerator. But TVs, computers, coffee makers, etc. don't need to be plugged in ... especially the ones which have clocks and/or timers ... or anything which has a stand-by light on when the device is turned off. These "phantom" devices use a lot of energy. To make "unplugging" easy, use a power strip ... one click turns all the devices plugged into it off.

  8. Close the windows and doors. This one may seem obvious but there are many people who choose to leave a window open at all times and then compensate by turning the heat up. If having a window open is important, turn the heat off and bundle up.

  9. Do you get chilly while sleeping? Rather than using electric blankets, try using flannel sheets and extra blankets ... you'll get that warm coziness without using electricity.

Now it's your turn ... what are your favorite energy saving ideas for the cool days of fall and winter?

Need a little more incentive to cut energy use? How about this ... since we employed the energy saving methods described above, we've cut our bill by 50%. I don't know about you, but I can think of a lot of ways to use the money we save.

As always ... I would love to hear from you!



Friday, October 1, 2010

Vegan Recipe - Spinach Chick Pea Curry

When the leaves start to change color and cool, brisk breezes begin to dance through the trees, my taste buds crave curry. Perhaps it's the availability of fall produce, which lends itself well to Indian dishes. Or maybe it's the heat of the curry paste I use ... it warms me on a cool evening.

This dish is one of my new favorites ... it's easy and nutritious. I found it at Allrecipes.com ... a great site for exploring new dishes.

I hope you and your family enjoy it:


Spinach Chick Pea Curry

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 (14.75 ounce) can creamed corn (vegan version)
1 tablespoon curry paste
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, or to taste
1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 (12 ounce) package firm tofu, cubed
1 bunch fresh spinach, stems removed
1 teaspoon dried basil or to taste

Directions:

1. In a large wok or skillet heat oil over medium heat; saute onions until translucent. Stir in creamed corn and curry paste. Cook, stirring regularly, for 5 minutes. As you stir, add salt, pepper and garlic.

2. Stir in garbanzo beans and gently fold in tofu. Add spinach and cover. When spinach is tender, remove from heat and stir in basil.

3. Serve with rice.


Notes:

-For a discussion on why vegan meals are Eco-friendly, please click HERE.
-I was unable to find vegan creamed corn so I simply took fresh corn and ran it through the food processor to get that creamy texture.
-For variety, try adding cauliflower, potatoes or any other veggies you have on hand.


For additional vegan recipes, be sure to click on the tab at the top of the Reduce Footprints blog.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Power ...


In past posts, I've written about the power we have as consumers. With every dollar we spend, we send a message ... we want certain items and would rather pass on others. In recent years, the public's spending habits have sent a strong message that environmentally friendly products and services are preferred. We've been willing to spend money on, for example, non-toxic cleansers and not so willing to buy cleansers that hurt our health and that of the environment. So manufacturers and retailers have listened ... and today, there are more healthy, "green" options, for us as consumers, than ever before.

Our spending habits are not, however, the only powerful tool we have at our disposal. We have our words ... spoken, written and shared.

Last year, after attending our local state fair, I wrote to the organizers, encouraging them to make this family friendly event a more earth-friendly event. I suggested that they provide recycle bins and ask food and drink vendors not to use Styrofoam containers. I also suggested that they provide more vegetarian food options since meatless meals are an excellent way to walk a little gentler on the earth. I posted about my opinions, I tweeted about them and I asked others to let their thoughts and opinions be heard. They did! This year, there were considerable improvements to the fair. I didn't see any Styrofoam, there were more vegetarian options available and receptacles for cans and bottles were provided. Yay!

Another example of the power of our words happened to me recently ... and while it may initially seem like a non-environmental issue, bear with me and I'll explain. I have a DSL Internet connection. It was working fine and then, all of a sudden, it began going down each day in the afternoon. I called my provider's help line and, after going through a standardized list of tests, was told that I had a bad modem. So, we purchased a new one ... and still had problems. I called the help line again ... and, after going through the same list of tests, was told my router was bad. So, we purchased a new one ... and still had problems. I called again and .... yes ... after the same list of tests was told that there was nothing they could do for me. What?? This is a large, well-known company ... and they were washing their hands of me. So, in total frustration, I got on Twitter and talked about it. Within two hours, I was being contacted by people who could actually help me. Within one day, the problem (a disconnected wire at the main box) was fixed. So, how does this relate to the environment? Well, we purchased devices that were probably unnecessary and buying more stuff means more stuff is manufactured which means more natural resources are used. To buy these devices we had to drive to a store (unnecessary fuel consumption). In the end, it was my words that generated a resolution.

The moral of this post is that our words have power. When we use them to draw attention to the environmental problems we face, good things happen. We can write posts, tweet or use facebook to draw attention to our concerns and encourage others to make a positive difference. We can also let our voice be heard through petitions on such sites as Care2 (for an excellent article on why online petitions work, click HERE).


The first step in making a change is awareness and education. We, as a society and particularly on this blog, have spent a lot of time becoming aware and learning about environmental issues. Now it's time to take action ... to flex our environmental muscle.

As always ... I would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

We're back with 24 Tips for fall ...

Happy first day of autumn ... and welcome back to Reduce Footprints. We have a new look which I hope you like ... and the Change The World Wednesday challenges have a page all to themselves (the tab is at the top of the page). We've also removed a lot of stuff from the sidebar to clean things up a bit. The blog roll is being re-built so, if you'd like to have your blog listed, please drop me an email with your link (email address is in sidebar).

We also have some new followers ... I'd to welcome them and encourage everyone to drop me a line if there are things you'd like to talk about here on Reduce Footprints. To all my "regulars", I'd like to say "thanks" for sticking with us ... it's good to see you all!

Okay ... I thought we'd start off with some tips and ideas for fall. This list has been growing over the last couple of years ... the ideas are tried and true. Here they are:

  1. Check the air pressure in your tires. Cooler temperatures lower tire pressure and that, in turn, lowers fuel efficiency. So check your tires and make sure that they are properly inflated.

  2. If you have a garage, park the car in it. As the weather gets colder, using a garage will alleviate the need to warm up the car before driving ... and will save fuel.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

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

  9. 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.

  10. Check your roof for any missing or damaged tiles or shingles.

  11. Clean the roof gutters and make sure downspouts are pointed away from the house. Now would also be a good time to install a rain barrel ... rather than allow water to drain into one spot, a rain barrel would allow you to direct the water to where it's most needed.

  12. 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.

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

  14. Check for water leaks both inside and outside.

  15. Wrap the water heater in an insulating blanket.

  16. 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."

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

  18. 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.

  19. Bring in any houseplants that have spent the summer outdoors. They'll help clean the air. Hint ... for about a week, bring them in at night and then put them out during the day. This will ensure that they aren't "shocked".

  20. Do a little outdoor landscaping. Trees and bushes, planted in the fall, have ample time to develop strong, deep root systems before the heat of the next summer. This increases their chances of surviving and typically means less watering during hot months. For a discussion on fall gardening, click HERE.

  21. As the autumn leaves begin to fall, consider raking them up rather than using a "blower" (it's great exercise). Once raked up, use them as mulch to protect plants throughout the winter or add them to a compost pile.

  22. Speaking of exercise, as the weather gets cooler, there's a tendency to drive kids to school or the bus stop. To save that fuel, bundle up and walk your kids to school ... you'll all be healthier and so with the earth.

  23. Even though fresh, local produce isn't as abundant during this season, there are still many options available. Visit local farms or farmer's markets and find out what's available and then, eat locally and in season. Visit Sustainable Table to learn which crops are growing in your area.

  24. Before packing away those summer clothes, go through them and determine which items to keep, which items to repurpose into something else (cleaning rags, craft projects, etc.) and which to donate.


What are your favorite green living ideas for fall?

Next Wednesday we'll begin our weekly challenges so be sure to stay tuned for that.

As always ... I would love you hear from you!

Thanks, everyone!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

500 Followers ...

I'm still on a break but ... I had to pop back in and share some exciting news with you. Are you ready?

REDUCE FOOTPRINTS NOW HAS
500 FOLLOWERS!
WHOO HOO!



And who, you might ask, is our 500th follower? It is Andie from Andrea's Ramblings. So ... if you have a minute ... drop by her blog and take a look.

Thanks to all of you for joining in the effort to reduce our footprint on the earth!

Okay ... I'm returning to vacation mode. Until I get back, please browse around ... and check out the blog rolls on the side bar ... lots of great reading there.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Vegan Recipes - Cantaloupe and Cherry Tomato Salad & Cherry Burritos

It's the first Friday of the month and that means ... a vegan recipe. Eating meatless meals is one of the easiest ways to walk gently on the earth. Even one meal a week makes a tremendous difference.

This month I had a total recipe "block" and couldn't come up with anything that felt "right". So, I turned to my friend, The Wayland Springs Cook. Not long ago, she and her daughter tried going vegetarian for a month so I knew they would have something to share. And sure enough ... they gave me two very delicious-looking recipes. I can't wait to try them!

Thanks, so much, to Chef Amy and her daughter, Rebekka!



Cantaloupe and Cherry Tomato Salad


2 cups cubed cantaloupe
2 cups quartered cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup minced shallots
1/4 cup fresh oregano or basil
2 tablespoons minced jalapeno pepper
2 teaspoons orange rind grated
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Combine, toss and cover. Refrigerate for 30 minuets. Serves 6 (2/3 cup servings)


Cherry Burritos

1/2 cup vegan butter- melted
8 flour tortillas (be sure that the ingredients do not include lard)
1 can cherry pie filling (any kind of pie filling will do)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Place 3 tablespoons of filling onto each burrito. Fold over one edge and roll up. Place seam side down on a greased cookie sheet. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake 12 minuets at 375. Dust with powdered sugar and serve hot or cold.



Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day


Today is Memorial Day in the United States ... a day to remember those who have gone on before us. I had the opportunity, over the weekend, to visit a Historic Cemetery. It was a fascinating place, the inscriptions on headstones telling a story and offering us a brief glimpse into times past.

In one section, there were markers telling of the passing of a family ... two adults (presumably the parents) and a number of children under the age of 5. They lived in the late 1700's and their short lives were a reminder of how hard life was in those days.

The military section contained a row of civil war soldiers ... a confederate flag stood next to each marker. As I stood next to their graves, I thought how they actually lived something which was only real to me through school books.

This cemetery held some famous people ... Thomas Wolfe and "O. Henry" (William Sydney Porter). It was a reminder that death is the one thing we have in common.

As with most cemeteries, this one was situated on a beautiful piece of property ... complete with a view. It was peaceful as soft breezes danced through the trees.

Looking around this cemetery, I thought about the environmental impact of what I was seeing. Concrete headstones and mausoleums ... and out of view, caskets and urns. The truth is that most cemeteries and burials aren't kind to the earth.

So ... today ... in thinking about what the day means, I'm also thinking about our final choice ... how to be buried. Will we choose a green burial or a traditional one? What are your thoughts?

As always, I would love to hear from you!

Monday, May 24, 2010

14 Quick tips and Interesting Facts ...

It's time for some quick tips and interesting facts:
  1. Pour left-over wine into an ice cube tray and store in the freezer. When you next need wine to cook with, grab some "wine-cubes". That way, not a drop of wine is ever wasted.

  2. Bumblebees often nest in compost piles. So, when one is spotted emerging, try not to disturb them ... they pollinate a wide variety of plants, they won't sting unless provoked, and they naturally die off in the fall.

  3. In 1995 over 200 of the world landfills were full.

  4. Even though approximately one-half of beverage containers are recycled annually, Americans trash more than 270 million beer and soft drink bottles every day.

  5. Looking for an environmentally conscious spouse or friend? Try joining local "green" groups to meet people of like mind.

  6. Rather than give cut flowers, give potted plants (organic, of course).

  7. Cleaning your dryer's lint filter can slash its energy usage by as much as 30%.

  8. Every week about 20 species of plants and animals become extinct.

  9. Rain Forests are being cut down at the rate of 100 acres per minute.

  10. Staying within the speed limit and smoothly accelerating can save up to 25% of a vehicle's typical gasoline use.

  11. Bamboo, which now can be found in many products (even clothing), is a sustainable material which has natural antibacterial and odor prevention properties ... and, because of it's porous texture, can keep one cool on a hot day and warm in the winter.

  12. Open a box/package of bar soap on one end and let it dry out for a few weeks before using it. This removes the excess moisture content from the soap and makes the bar last longer.

  13. Going on vacation? Remember to turn off the water heater ... and save energy!

  14. According to NOAA, an estimated 210,000 gallons of oil (5,000 barrels) a day is still leaking into the Gulf of Mexico (that after the initial "fix").


Do you have any tips and/or facts to share?

As always, I would love to hear from you!


Friday, May 21, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different ...

Today I'm going completely off-topic and having a little fun. Are you game?




My friend, Brian, from The New Author recently won the Creative Writer Blogger Award. The rules of the award state that he is to nominate others for this award and ... yep ... he nominated me.

So ... I'd like to thank Brain for passing it on to me.






Okay ... here are the rules:
  • Thank the person who gave this to you.
  • Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
  • Link to the person who nominated you.
  • Tell up to six outrageous lies about yourself, and at least one outrageous truth – or – switch it around and tell six outrageous truths and one outrageous lie.
  • Nominate seven “Creative Writers” who might have fun coming up with outrageous lies.
  • Post links to the seven blogs you nominate.
  • Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know you nominated them.

Ready for my lies & truths? See if you can figure out if I've told 6 lies and 1 truth or 6 truths and 1 lie:
  1. I love wolves and when I was 21 I had a tattoo of a wolf placed on my lower back.
  2. I hold a Masters Degree from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
  3. I am 6'2" tall and grew to 5'0" by the time I was 10 years old.
  4. We recently had dinner with Steve Martin who now has a home in Brevard, NC.
  5. I worked, for many years, in a building with no windows (not one single window).
  6. I once spent a summer panning for gold in Alaska.
  7. I have hiked the entire 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail.
Hm ... so which is truth and which is fabrication? Can you guess?

Now to the nominations. There are so many people I'd like to stick with pass this award to. If I haven't nominated you, and you'd like to play along, please do. But, to fulfill my duties and get us started, I nominate these seven:

Here's one more truth for you: I am notoriously bad about fulfilling awards so ... if any of my seven nominees aren't up for it, I totally understand. But ... I hope you'll have some fun and play along.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Monday, May 17, 2010

It's All In Our Head ...

Here's a question to ponder ...

If you were having a house built or remodeling your current home, would you feel you were getting your money's worth if the contractor used salvaged building materials to construct your project?

Unfortunately, many people would answer that question with "NO". In our society, we seem to believe that the only quality products are brand new and that something salvaged, used, pre-owned or repurposed isn't the "best". I suspect that we can thank advertisers for that thinking ... after all, they are in the business of keeping companies afloat and that means making consumers believe that they need the newest items on the market.

In truth, "New" isn't always better. For example, salvaged construction materials, like lumber, are often sturdier and less expensive than new items purchased from a lumber yard. Pre-owned vehicles are often a much better value than brand new cars (if the brakes give out on your new car, it isn't good).

And what about the environment? When one considers the impact of new items ... the natural resources required and energy used to fabricate them ... new isn't really better. When we see landfills being swamped with last year's "New" items ... well, that isn't better either.

Imagine what would happen if our collective thinking changed ... if we viewed "New" as bad and "Used" as best. Imagine a world where landfills weren't filled with usable items. It could happen ... after all ... it's all in our heads.

As always ... I would love to hear from you!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Does Your Washer Smell Like a Dirty Locker Room?

Have you ever walked into your laundry room and thought ... Whew, it smells like a dirty locker room in here? It could be the pile of soccer clothes dumped on the floor by your kids or the wet towels tossed in the corner after swimming. But it could also be the washing machine itself. Yes, the machine we trust to get our whites white and our colors brilliant can cause odors.

The fact is that washing machines are subject to soap scum and dirt build-up, especially if one washes clothes in cold water (the Eco-friendly way). Who knew! So ... do we have to live with the smell? Not at all ... and we don't have to use harsh chemicals or toxic cleaners to fix the problem.

Removing the odor depends on the cause:

If wet clothing was left in the washer too long (ever started the washer and then totally forgot about it ... for a week), it could become "stale" and cause a smell. Re-wash the clothes to remove any mold, mildew and smell.

If there is standing water in the tub, it may signal a problem with the drain. This may require calling for repair.

If there are no wet clothes and no standing water, then it's probably build-up. To remove the build-up and clear up any odors, try this:

  1. Remove any visible dirt, lint, etc.

  2. Mix together 1/2 cup baking soda with 2 cups vinegar. Careful ... use a large container because this mixture bubbles up.

  3. Begin filling your washer with HOT water (I know ... we "greenies" hate wasting the energy required to fill a tub with hot water but, in this case, it's really necessary).

  4. As the tub fills, pour in the baking soda/vinegar mixture.

  5. Let the washer run through the entire cycle, including rinse.

  6. Using a sponge, wipe down the inside of the tub and any visible surfaces.

Your washer should now be sparkling clean and odor free!

As always ... I would love to hear from you!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Go "Green" by Getting Organized

One of my favorite sites, My Craft Corner, started a contest which is designed to help everyone get organized. As I read through all the posts it occurred to me that getting organized is a very green activity.

When a space is disorganized, it's hard to know what's there. For example, think about a "junk" drawer ... all manner of odds and ends get thrown into this space ... things which we don't want to toss out because we know we'll eventually need them. Typically, that drawer becomes a "black hole" ... what goes in is never seen again. We forget what's in there and the next time we need that battery or paper clip, etc., we head off to the store to make a purchase. The result is that we use unnecessary time and resources to accumulate more stuff ... stuff which is probably in that drawer.

For many people, it's not just a junk drawer ... it's a closet, a room, or a garage. It can even be a refrigerator. It's any place where stuff gets stashed and disorganized. It's a place which makes us feel overwhelmed and like we'd rather just look the other way. Unfortunately, these repositories continue to use resources (heating, cooling, lights, etc.). Frankly, when one thinks about the use of a space versus the cost to maintain it, a disorganized space isn't a good value.

Consider this ... the average size of homes in America is twice as large as it was 30 years ago. However, the average number of occupants in those homes has decreased. Could it be that we are buying larger homes to accommodate the amount of stuff we buy? And could getting organized help us reduce the amount of stuff we have? I believe so!

There are other ways in which being organized is Eco-friendly. For example:

  • Organizing our errands and planning our travel route will optimize vehicle use and help us to minimize fuel consumption.

  • Planning a week's menu helps us reduce energy. Perhaps we use the oven once to cook more than one dish (example, cook a casserole, desert and a loaf of bread at the same time). We can prepare a double batch of a food, using the same amount of energy it takes to cook one batch (example - cook double the amount of pasta which can be used in tonight's dinner and in tomorrow's salad).

  • Organizing the way laundry is done helps to minimize water consumption when we wash only full loads and reduces energy use when we don't allow the dryer to cool between loads.

  • Arranging our daily routine to open windows when the air is cool and close the curtains when the sun shines through helps us minimize our summer cooling expense.

Getting organized is just one more easy way to walk a little gentler on the earth!

As always, I would love to hear from you!


Friday, May 7, 2010

Vegan Recipe - Seitan and Mushroom Stroganoff

It's the first Friday of the month and that means a vegan recipe to share. Why? Well, eating a plant-based diet ... even occasionally ... is one of the easiest ways to walk gently on the earth. Simply put, it takes less natural resources to produce one pound of plant-based foods than it does to produce one pound of animal-based foods. And with recipes, like the delicious one I'm sharing today, it's truly a joyful way to save the earth.

This month's recipe is from the folks at ChooseVeg.Com who graciously gave me permission to share it with you. It meets my personal criteria for recipes ... it's delicious and it's easy to make. I hope you and your family will enjoy it as much as we do.


Seitan and Mushroom Stroganoff

Serves 4

* 2 tablespoons corn starch
* 3 tablespoons soy sauce
* 1-1/3 cups vegetable broth or water
* 1/2 teaspoon garlic granules
* 2 tablespoons tahini
* 2 teaspoons canola oil or olive oil
* 2 cups thinly sliced onions
* 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
* 4 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
* 2 cups thinly sliced seitan strips
* ground black pepper, to taste
* egg-free noodles

Gravy: Stir cornstarch and soy sauce together in a 2-quart saucepan and make a thin, smooth, paste. Whisk in the vegetable broth or water and garlic granules. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until it thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the tahini. Cover the saucepan and set aside.

Place oil in a large skillet and heat over medium-high. When the oil is hot, saute the onion and garlic for 10 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, for 5 to 7 minutes.

Stir the seitan strips and the reserved gravy into the onions and mushrooms. Reduce heat to low and stir often, about 5 to 10 minutes, until the seitan is heated through.

Season the stroganoff with ground pepper. Serve at once over egg-free noodles.

My Personal Notes:
  • The Stroganoff is wonderful over brown rice or vegan mashed potatoes as an alternative to the noodles.

  • Substitute Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) for the seitan for a "hamburger" texture. Just be sure to soak it in water/broth first to rehydrate.

  • If you don't have fresh mushrooms, try using dried mushrooms (we tried Shitake). Dried mushrooms will also need to be rehydrated before cooking.


  • Try adding thinly sliced peppers with the onions for a slightly different flavor.


As always ... I would love to hear from you!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle - Part 3

Here it is ... the post you've been waiting for. This is the final post in our three part series on the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle). If you missed the first two "episodes" ... or if you'd just like to revisit these articles ... click on the following links:

Part 1 (Reduce)

Part 2 (Reuse)

OK ... so ... now that we have reduced our consumption of everything and have reused what we do have, what's next? Recycle! This is the part of the process that we're probably the most familiar with. Since I've talked a lot, in other articles, about the "why" of our efforts ... I'm not going to discuss it this time ... I'm mostly going to talk about just doing it.

Many communities in our country encourage recycling and have made it relatively easy for us to do so. Some cities offer curb side pickup ... homeowners, or those living in homes, can set out their sorted recyclables and they are hauled away to become new products. Some areas don't even ask that the recyclables be sorted ... they do it for you. For those that don't have curb side pickup, there may be a recycling center close by. Check with your City Hall or waste management company to find out what your recycling options are ... as well as information on what can be recycled.

As I've mentioned before, I live in an apartment. We have a recycle bin for cardboard but nothing else. Our recyclables must be hauled to one of the centers in our city. While I've wanted to recycle and do my part, the truth is that I've found it difficult to accomplish in a small space. There's the space required for containers ... there's the potential smell ... there's driving to a center ... simply put, there's the EFFORT. But how can I write a blog about being kinder to the environment and not do everything that I can possibly do to reduce my footprint? Good question! So, I made up my mind to find a way to accomplish this task without making myself crazy. You know the old saying ... "where there's a will, there's a way". We began to look around for a space that would be convenient and ... out of sight (one of my personal criteria). With a little rearranging, we were able to put recycle containers in our laundry room. We have room for two containers ... not enough to sort out everything but we can toss everything into those two containers and do the sorting at the recycle center. We've also converted the garbage can in our office to a paper-only can. When our containers are full, we load them into the car and head out to the center. Once there, we each grab a container and start sorting and tossing. We have fun with it ... seeing who is the best "tosser" ... who is the fastest. And in the end ... we've not only had fun with the task, we leave feeling pretty good about our efforts.

Here are a few helpful hints to make recycling successful:

  • Rinse out plastic, glass and metal containers so that there is no smell (nothing will end your recycling efforts faster than smelly containers in your home).
  • Place your containers somewhere convenient ... usually close to the kitchen. Make it as easy as possible to toss things into them.
  • Remove paper labels from containers ... this helps companies use the materials.

So give it a try. I suggest starting out with the easy stuff ... paper, plastic, metal and glass. If you're not sure about what can be recycled, just check the Internet ... there are all kinds of sites with helpful information.

I can now proudly say that I reduce, reuse ... and recycle.

As always, I'd love to hear from you. Let me know what you think of this site ... what suggestions you might have for improving it ... and any ideas that you have for reducing our footprint on the earth.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Inspiration Avenue Blog Party


welcome

I'm so happy you could attend our blog party.


My name is Small Footprints and I'll be your hostess for this segment of the festivities.


If this is your first blog party, let me explain a bit about it. I am privileged to be a member of a global Etsy team called Inspiration Avenue. Awhile back we held an art auction for charity and, because of our generous readers, were able to raise over $500.00 for a wonderful organization called Angel Faces. So, in celebration, we decided to have a party.

Each member of the team, and some of our friends, has prepared something special for you ... a "lesson". It might be a recipe, a tutorial or simply some wise words from someone who has lived well. One thing is for sure ... when the party is over you'll go home with a bag full of goodies.

Once you've spent a little time with me, please click on the badge at the beginning of this post to head over to the main party room. There you'll find links to other lessons. Oh ... and I see that some of you have brought treats of your own ... please leave a link to your lesson in the comments section at Inspiration Avenue.

So ... ready to begin? My gifts to you are Eco-friendly, frugal cleanser recipes. Now ... you might not think that these recipes are anything special but, let me tell you ... they work great and they are non-toxic. That means ... no possibility of accidental poisoning ... no harmful fumes to breathe in (ever wonder what causes those headaches that seem to appear when cleaning?) ... and no harm to the earth. And oh yeah ... these recipes are made from stuff you probably already have in your pantry so ... they are easy on the wallet.

First up ... my favorite all-around cleaning/scrubbing compound:

In a wide-mouthed jar with lid, mix equal parts vinegar and baking soda. Add a drop or two of your favorite essential oil, place the lid on the jar and gently shake to mix all the ingredients. Use this to scrub the bathroom, kitchen or even pots and pans. The baking soda is slightly abrasive but won't hurt surfaces. The vinegar, in addition to cleaning well, kills germs and bacteria.

Next ... a real easy, effective window cleaner:

In a spray bottle, mix equal parts water and vinegar. Spray on windows and wipe clean. We're talking brilliantly clean windows here!

One of my favorites ... the best drain cleaner in the world (okay, that's my opinion):

Pour about 1/4 cup baking soda into the drain. Follow with 1/4 cup vinegar. Let it work for awhile then flush with water. For really clogged drains, you might need a couple of applications.

Finally, how about this substitute for bleach in your laundry:

When the washer has filled with water, add 1-2 cups of hydrogen peroxide. Agitate for a minute to mix. Then, let it soak for at least one hour (overnight is even better). Add detergent and wash as normal.

Now that you've scrubbed and cleaned ... I think it's time for a treat! So ... how about a little Strawberry Shortcake? Here you go:


Vegan Strawberry Shortcake

2 & 1/4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
4 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbs. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup oil or shortening
1 egg substitute (Ener-G), prepared and beaten
2/3 cup soy milk
3 pints fresh strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups whipped topping of your choice (Hip Whip, etc.) or Vegan Ice Cream

  • Slice the strawberries and sprinkle them with 1/2 cup of sugar. Let stand.
  • Preheat oven to 425 F
  • Grease and flour one 8" cake pan.
  • In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, 2 Tbs. sugar, and salt.
  • With a pastry blender (or two knives), cut in the oil or shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  • Make a well in the center and add the beaten egg sub. and soy milk. Stir until just combined.
  • Spread the batter into the prepared pan.
  • Bake at 425 F for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
  • Let cool partially in the pan on wire rack.
  • Slice partially-cooled cake in half, making two layers.
  • Arrange the strawberries on one layer, and the top with the other layer.
  • Top with remaining strawberries, and cover with the whipped topping or ice cream.

    By the way, if you're curious about why a vegan/vegetarian diet is good for the planet, please click HERE.


So there you are ... I hope you have enjoyed your time with me. Leave me a link so I can get to know you better ... and have a great time with the rest of the party hosts and guests!


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