Monday, August 31, 2009

Sustainability and Our Role

There are a number of programs on television where the host travels the world, eating regional dishes ... favorites of the area. You know the ones ... there's a host family or chef ready to introduce us to the culinary delights of their ancestors and the proud tradition of cooking. Usually, before actually cooking up the feast, they take us on a tour of their local markets. There will be table after table of beautiful, mouth-watering produce ... and then they'll turn and enter the impressive fish market. Here, one will find every imaginable (and unimaginable) type of fish ... lots of fish .. TONS of fish.

Whenever I see these programs, I think ... it's one day, in one town, in one country ... and they have taken tons of fish from the waters. This happens every single day, year after year, in towns all over the world. It makes me wonder ... what will happen when there is nothing left?

It's the same with many of our natural resources ... we consume for the here and now without much thought about tomorrow. And quite frankly, that's exactly how advertising agencies want to keep it. Whether it's because we buy into the idea that we need more and more stuff, or because we enjoy our comforts, or because there are just so many people walking the earth ... the fact is that, for the most part, we don't live sustainably.

Sustainability, simply put, is the capacity to endure. Humans do much more than endure, however ... we over consume, we accumulate lots of stuff ... we have allowed ourselves to believe that we NEED more of everything. Commerce accommodates us ... which means we deplete natural resources ... at alarming rates. The human species is enduring and growing and thriving ... but, because of it, many plant and animal species are not. So, I ask again, what will happen when there is nothing left? What will become of humans?

My personal belief is that humans won't endure ... that if we continue to use up everything, a point will come when we don't have anything. And that particular "end" won't be pretty!

Can we stop the madness? Sure! We can do all the things that make sense ... the things that native peoples have practiced for generations ... the things that we were taught as children but have, more than likely, forgotten. Things like taking only what we need. Things like thinking about the big picture ... understanding that while one purchase by one person may not mean much, one purchase by a whole lot of people might have a big impact. All of the ideas that we've talked about in this blog ... buying local, reducing consumption, recycling ... they all contribute to a sustainable lifestyle. There are other concepts which we haven't talked about, like population control (hello Octo-mom).

The point is ... we have to think about our actions and choose those that maintain life for generations to come. If we take one fish and leave the others to propagate and grow, we'll have fish for another day. If we take all the fish ... we'll have nothing.

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

Saturday, August 29, 2009

WOW ...

While I wasn't looking ...

It happened ...



Thanks to "Art Ist" for this:

And a HUGE THANKS to all of my followers ...

You make this site fun and interesting!

Hope you're having a wonderful Saturday ... you all just made mine FABULOUS!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Film Friday

Grab your popcorn ... settle back ... and enjoy an afternoon movie!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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

Monday, August 24, 2009

Recycling & Composting - Three Lessons Learned

This week's challenge is about reducing the size of our trash bins by composting and recycling. We've been doing both activities for awhile so ... I thought I'd share some "lessons learned".

Lesson One: It IS possible to compost and recycle while living in an apartment.

Truthfully, when I began this blog, I didn't think either activity would work in a small space. We'd need an indoor spot to put recycle bins and an outdoor spot to put a compost. As with most things in life, however, the largest hurdle was simply getting my head wrapped around the idea. Once I did, the rest was easy.

We rearranged our laundry room a bit and stacked about four grocery boxes in the corner. These became our recycle bins ... one each for plastic, aluminum, glass and metal. We put another box in our office for paper. They fill up fast ... and we don't have curbside recycling or even a convenient center in our complex ... so, every time we leave the house, we take a box with us and place it in the trunk. If we happen to be driving by the recycle center (which is basically on our way to anywhere), we stop in and unload.

The compost bin seemed to be a little more challenging ... I thought it would be messy and smelly. It can be if a little care isn't taken. In my kitchen, I have an empty coffee container with a lid ... this is where I toss veggie scraps, coffee grounds and other compostables. When the container is full, I take it out to my patio where we've dedicated a large planter as our composter. We tossed some dirt in the bottom, added our organic material, covered it with a little more dirt and then ... and this is key ... we covered the container (we used an Eco-bag). This keeps the smell down.

Before we knew it, we had a routine for both recycling and composting.

Lesson Two: Almost everything can be either recycled or composted.

When one really starts considering what is tossed out, almost everything can either be recycled or composted. It does require that we break the habit of just tossing things into the trash and entails looking at things like recycle codes. And it sometimes requires separating components like removing paper labels from cans. But ... once in the habit of doing so, almost everything we touch has a place other than the trash.

Lesson Three: "Real" trash smells.

One of the things that bothered me about this process is that the trash bin started to smell way before it was even slightly full. This is because the only things getting trashed were cooked food items (I don't put anything cooked into the compost bin and we don't use the disposal ... it uses too much water). Not a lot of food goes to waste in our house ... we try to only cook what we can eat in a reasonable amount of time but ... occasionally cooked items get tossed. So does canned pet food that doesn't get eaten in a day. These items very quickly smell. I didn't feel right, however, about wasting a trash bag (even the Eco variety) before it was reasonably full. So ... we came up with a trick. We put any tossed out, potentially smelly stuff, into a small Eco-bag and then freeze it. We keep adding to the bag until it's full and then we take it to the dumpster. No more smelly trash bin.

It turns out that recycling and composting are easy activities ... activities that help us walk a little easier on the earth. On Wednesday, I hope you'll stop in and check out the Honor Society ... I've been reading everyone's efforts and there are some great recycling/composting tips and ideas.

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

Monday, August 17, 2009

It's Hot, Hot, Hot ...

How is everyone surviving the heat of the summer? I know that in many areas, people are struggling with triple digit temperatures which have gone on for a record number of days. Keeping cool, for some, has become a matter of health ... and not just comfort.

Last summer I wrote a piece that I'd like to share with you again ... it's all about keeping ourselves comfortable in the summer without walking too heavily on the earth. I hope you enjoy it:

Ah summertime ... outdoor activities, sunshine ... and temperatures that sometimes become stifling. It's tempting, as the temperature rises, to make ourselves comfortable by turning on the air conditioner. But wait ... don't touch that dial. Well, at least until you've considered some alternatives.

Where we live, the mornings are usually cool. So we take advantage of the refreshing air by opening all the windows. Within just a few minutes, the temperature of our apartment goes down. We have ceiling fans and they help move the cool air throughout our home. If you don't have ceiling fans, inexpensive oscillating fans work just as well.

As the sun moves around the house, we close the windows and adjust the blinds to block out as much sunlight and heat as possible. Once the sun goes down (along with the temperature), we again open the windows and the cool, night air comes in.

This method has kept our home comfortable without using air conditioning. When the temperatures got close to 90 recently, our apartment stayed nice and cool ... around 77 degrees.

We are also conscious of those sneaky little heat producers ... have you ever touched the top of your computer monitor? And how about light bulbs ... they produce a lot of heat. So, turn off any heat producers when they aren't in use.

For those of you who leave the house early and don't return until late afternoon or evening, these methods still work. Opening the windows in the morning, even for a few minutes will lower the temperature in your house. Leaving the curtains or blinds closed all day will block out a lot of heat. And here's another tip: if you find that your house is still too warm when you get home, put a box fan, or an oscillating fan, next to the window, pointing out. That's right ... turn it so that it blows the hot air from your house, outside. This works amazingly well.

Air conditioning units, even the most efficient ones, use a lot of energy ... much more than ceiling fans or a few, well placed oscillating fans. And my personal belief is that breathing "conditioned" air isn't real healthy ... have you ever noticed how there's a tendency to get congested when the A/C is on?

If, after giving these methods a try, you're still too warm and want to use the A/C, set the thermostat as high as possible ... 78 degrees or warmer.

I hope you'll try these ideas ... and ... "Be Cool, Dude".

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

Friday, August 14, 2009

A bit of this and that ...

Here are a few quick tips and interesting facts:

  • Rather than buy a new vase for your beautiful summer flowers, try using an old glass or bottle.

  • Farmer's markets not only offer local, seasonal and often organic food ... there isn't any packaging involved.

  • On average, we use a plastic bag for 12 minutes ... that same plastic bag persists in a landfill for approximately 1,000 years ~ Body+Soul magazine, September 2009 issue.

  • A push mower emits 0% pollution ... and it's great exercise.

  • Thinking of purchasing a new oven? Opt for an energy efficient convection oven. It uses 20% less energy than conventional ovens.

  • Did you know that wooden chopsticks cost China about 25 million trees a year to make?

  • Use tap water instead of bottled water.

  • Did you know that you could reduce your chemical exposure by approximately 80% by choosing organic produce?

  • The perimeter of a store typically has the healthiest items (for both us and the environment).

  • For grass stains on clothing, use hydrogen peroxide ... the key to this working is speed ... don't let the stain set.

  • Use the appropriate burner on your stove. A 6 inch pot over an 8 inch burner will waste over 40 percent of the heat generated.

  • Send e-greeting cards ... save money, a stamp, paper and the earth.

  • Save trees ... read the daily newspaper online rather than having it delivered.

  • A vacation is a state of mind, not a reservation ... so try a "staycation".

  • And finally, if you're still looking for a natural cleaner for this week's challenge, try this:

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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

Monday, August 10, 2009

Are bugs bugging you?

For several years, our area has been on a drought list. Seasons came and seasons went with no appreciable rainfall. The forests, near our home, were dry and brown ... and water levels, in nearby lakes, were at all time lows. While this was a bad situation and communities were scrambling to make sure that households had enough water to drink, the one positive was that bug populations ... those that need water to breed and live ... were down.

Then, the rains came ... the reservoirs filled and we have officially been removed from the drought list. Great news ... except ... more rain and higher humidity means that there are also more bugs ... specifically mosquitoes which breed in water and ticks which thrive near water.

Mosquitoes and ticks, in addition to being obnoxious little creatures who bite, can carry diseases such as Yellow Fever, West Nile Encephalitis, Lyme Disease, etc. These are dangerous diseases which can be life threatening. So avoiding bites is important!

If you head out to your local market for mosquito and tick repellent, you'll probably find products containing DEET. DEET works ... no doubt. But, it is a chemical pesticide ... a solvent which can melt synthetic materials and even nail polish. It is toxic to our environment, getting into waterways and killing fish. If you've ever used a product containing it, you'll know that DEET has an unpleasant smell and doesn't feel real good on one's skin. It can cause rashes, headaches and even seizures. Personally, I'd prefer not to use the stuff.

It seems like a "no win" situation, doesn't it? I mean ... which is worse, the illness or the prevention. Well, it turns out that there are other, safe ways to keep those nasty bugs at bay. Here are some ideas:

  • Mosquitoes breed in standing water, especially the stuff that's been sitting for awhile. So, remove standing water in puddles, plant containers, etc. For things like pet bowls and bird baths, be sure to change the water frequently ... clean water isn't as appealing as dirty water. Rather than water your garden frequently, opt for watering deeply and less often.

  • Wear light colored clothing ... mosquitoes are drawn to dark colors. Ticks aren't color sensitive but, if one hitches a ride on your clothes, he'll be easier to see and remove if the clothing is white.

  • Cover up. Bugs have a hard time biting through material ... so wear long sleeved shirts and long pants to minimize skin exposure.

  • Fans are a great deterrent ... mosquitoes have a hard time negotiating through wind. So create a breeze with a floor or ceiling fan.

  • Love the scent of floral perfumes and soaps? So do mosquitoes! Opt for "fragrance free" during mosquito season.

  • Make your own repellent: 1o to 25 drops essential oil plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil plus 1 tablespoon aloe vera gel (optional). Mix well and dab some on skin and clothing. Oils to try are: Rose Geranium (ticks hate this one), Pennyroyal, lemon balm, thyme, lavender, and eucalyptus. One note ... for best results, apply often ... essential oils don't repel for long durations.

  • Add some plants to your garden that naturally repel mosquitoes ... try catnip, rosemary, marigolds and lemon grass. Catnip has been shown to be 10 times more effective than DEET in repelling mosquitoes. And here's a tip ... one can take the leaves of these plants, crush them and rub them on skin and clothing ... no more mosquito bites.

  • Attract insect-eating birds. Set out feeders and birdhouses to attract swallows, chickadees, wrens, bluebirds, vireos, etc. They'll be fat and happy ... you'll be bug free.
With just a little care, one can enjoy the outdoors ... bug free and earth friendly.

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

Friday, August 7, 2009

Vegan Recipe - Cabbage Casserole

What a coincidence that our monthly vegan recipe is being posted at the same time that our "Meatless Meals" challenge is going on. Wow ... one might think that it was planned that way. :)

I'd like to share one of my favorite recipes with you. It makes use of a vegetable that seems to be abundant right now ... cabbage. It's easy to make and, to me, feels like real comfort food. It can be a side dish or the star of your meal. I hope you enjoy it!

Cabbage Casserole

  • 1 medium cabbage, chopped or shredded
  • 1 cup nutritional yeast
  • Toasted/oiled bread crumbs
  • 4 Tablespoons oil
  • 1/2 - 1 onion, diced
  • Garlic (to taste), minced
  • 4 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups soymilk
  • Salt/pepper (to taste)


Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Boil the cabbage in salted water until tender. Melt oil in a saucepan and saute onion and garlic. Add nutritional yeast and salt/pepper. Stir in flour. Slowly add in soymilk and stir well. Cook sauce over low heat until thick. Layer 1/2 cabbage in large oiled casserole dish. Add 1/2 of sauce, salt & pepper. Start over with layer of cabbage then sauce. Top with toasted bread crumbs. Bake covered for 30 minutes and then 10 minutes uncovered.

I'm not sure where I got this recipe ... I've been making it for years. So, if it's yours, please let me know ... I'd love to give the chef who created this one full credit. Happy eating, everyone!

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

Monday, August 3, 2009

More Vinegar Solutions ...

Awhile back we talked about using vinegar in the house to clean (you can read that article HERE). Vinegar is an amazing product ... it's inexpensive, it kills bacteria, mold and germs ... and, it's earth friendly.

Today we're taking vinegar outside. Here are some ideas (unless otherwise specified, we're using white distilled vinegar for these tips):
  • Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Hydrangeas and Gardenias all do better in acidic soil. Rather than use harmful chemicals, water them with a solution of one cup vinegar to a gallon of water.

  • Did some of your garden tools get rusted over the winter? Soak them in undiluted vinegar overnight or for a few days ... rust will disappear and your tools will be good as new.

  • We recently talked about using weeds to make a liquid fertilizer. But how about those weeds (or grass) that grow in tight spaces ... the cracks of a walkway or driveway? Spray them with vinegar and they're gone.

  • If you have an outdoor fountain or pond that uses a pump, soak the pump in full strength vinegar to remove mineral deposits and keep it working in tip top shape.

  • Have an ant problem? Spray the area with vinegar and they'll go elsewhere.

  • Soak clay, plastic or glazed pots in a 50/50 solution of water and vinegar for at least an hour to clean out stains, mineral deposits and to kill any bacteria, germs and mold before using them for new plants.

  • Nothing is better than watching wild birds take a bath. To keep our feathered friends happy and healthy, clean out the birdbath often by scrubbing it with undiluted vinegar. Rinse it well and fill it with fresh water.

  • Having a problem with garden lime? Neutralize it by adding vinegar to the area.

  • Keep your patio furniture clean and sanitary by wiping it down with vinegar. Keep a spray bottled filled and clean away.

  • Clean the hummingbird feeder with vinegar instead of soaps and detergents ... it will kill bacteria and germs and won't leave any harmful film.

  • Bothered by mosquitoes? Drink a little apple cider vinegar each day and you'll become unattractive to them.

  • Do you have brown spots on your lawn because "Fido" uses it as his urinal? Put a little Apple Cider Vinegar in his water bowl and no more brown spots (by the way, this trick also helps keep fleas at bay. Check out this link: for more information on vinegar and canine health).

  • Speaking of pets ... does your cat (or the neighbors) get into your garden or think your kid's sandbox is their own private litter box? Spray the area with vinegar ... they don't like the smell.

  • I have very sensitive skin and ... I don't like gloves when I work in the garden. The result is usually red, blotchy, itchy skin. To solve the problem, rinse hands in vinegar ... problem solved.

  • If your plants are being eaten by rabbits, discourage "Bugs Bunny" by putting vinegar soaked cotton balls in a 35mm film container or small pill bottle. Poke a hole in the top and place in the garden. "Bugs" will shop elsewhere.

  • Do flies like to hang around the pool? Pour vinegar around the perimeter of the pool ... not in the water ... just around the edges.

  • Have an unsightly stain on the concrete patio? Pour some vinegar on it, let it sit over night and then rinse it off. The stain will miraculously disappear.

  • Tired of scraping bugs off your windshield? Put about 3 cups of vinegar into the windshield wash reservoir ... no more problem.

  • Love to grill? Clean a cooled grill with vinegar and a brush.

  • If you have a wooden deck (sustainable, earth-friendly wood, of course) then you might be bothered with slippery mildew. Rather than use a bleach based cleaner, use vinegar.

  • Have birds used your furniture or deck for target practice? Spray down the "droppings" with vinegar, let it sit for awhile and then wash them away.

  • How about a camping trip? Vinegar cleans coolers and canvas tents. Don't forget about tarps ... stop that mold and mildew with ... yep ... vinegar. And here's a bonus ... using vinegar helps reduce the amount of dust that normally sticks to camping equipment.

So there you go ... earth-friendly, healthy ways to keep the outdoors pleasant.

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