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


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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