Monday, September 28, 2009

The "Best" Shave (again)

Today I'm recycling an article that was posted last year ... I hope you enjoy it:

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

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

I started searching the Internet for answers and found pros and cons for each shaving method. After a lot of reading and investigating, here's how I think razors stack up:

  • The best option, of course, is not shaving at all ... no razors to even think about. This can mean becoming hairy or using a hair removal system like waxing or sugaring. A note of caution here ... some hair removal systems have a real "Ow Ow Ow" factor.

  • Next comes the Safety Razor ... no plastic, lasts practically forever and all parts can be recycled. The downside: safety razors take some practice and are harder to use (be prepared for a few nicks and cuts).

  • The third best in my list is the Electric Razor. It lasts a long time and doesn't use much energy, especially if one only charges it up as needed and doesn't leave it constantly plugged in.

  • Fourth on my list is the Razor "System" with a reusable plastic handle and blades that last quite a while. It will eventually find it's way to the landfill but it takes awhile to get there.

  • Last is the Disposable Razor which has a short life and ends up in a landfill. One note if this is your choice ... I've read that placing the head of a disposable razor in a cup of olive oil will extend it's life. After each use, clean it well, dry it and place it in the cup. Supposedly it will not only extend the life of the razor but offer a closer shave as well.

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

Friday, September 25, 2009

Blog Action Day 2009

Last year, in October, while surfing around the blogosphere, I started running into a bunch of articles about the same topic ... poverty. Each article stated that it was in support of something called Blog Action Day. Hm ... a whole bunch of people supporting one idea ... fascinating!

If you've been coming to this blog for any length of time, then you know that I really like the concept of mass participation ... whether it's turning out our lights for an hour in support of Earth Hour or a whole bunch of us doing the same green activity during the same time frame for Change The World Wednesdays.

This thing called Blog Action Day peaked my interest.

So what is it? In their words: "Blog Action Day is an annual event that unites the world's bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day. Our aim is to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion."

Unfortunately, last year, I missed the party. But this year, I'm on top it. And guess what ... the topic of this year's event is Climate Change!

Here's how it works ... on October 15, 2009, bloggers everywhere are asked to post about Climate Change. The idea is to post about it in the context of your blog ... so, for example, if you have a photo blog, you may want to post pictures that convey climate change and why the world needs to address it. If you have a cooking blog, perhaps you want to post a recipe that supports a "green" life. We all speak about one topic in our own, unique way.

October 15th is a Thursday ... and since this sounds like a "challenge" to me ... it will be our Change The World Wednesday challenge for that week ... we'll just do it on Thursday.

So, start thinking and planning.

For more information including ideas, badges and a place to register for the event, click here:

As always, I would love to hear from you!

Monday, September 21, 2009

20 "Green" tips for Fall

Tomorrow, September 22nd, is the first day of autumn ... the Autumnal Equinox. In many areas the temperatures are beginning to drop and soon leaves will begin to fall. In a recent post we talked about fall being a perfect time for planting and landscaping. It turns out that this time of year is perfect for other Eco-friendly activities as well. Here are some ideas:

  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. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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

  8. 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.

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

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

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

  13. Check for water leaks both inside and outside.

  14. Wrap the water heater in an insulating blanket.

  15. 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."

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

  17. 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.

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

  19. As the autumn leaves begin to fall, consider raking them up rather than using a "blower". Once raked up, use them as mulch to protect plants throughout the winter or add them to a compost pile.

  20. 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.

A little effort in the fall will ensure that the chilly months ahead are warm and "green".

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

Friday, September 18, 2009

Tips, Facts and a Little Friday Fun ...

Here are a few tips, interesting facts ... and, a little Friday Fun!

  • Save 1,000 pounds of C02 a year by simply wrapping your water heater in an insulating blanket. It is an inexpensive way to save energy (I found one for under $20 at Amazon).

  • BPA (Bisphenol A), a hormone-disrupting chemical which leaches out of plastics (like poycarbonate water bottles) and into our bloodstream, became a household "word" when it's association with health problems, including diabetes and heart disease, became public knowledge. But did you know that many canned food containers have linings containing ... yep ... BPA? Opt for foods packaged in glass, cartons, BPA-free cans (Eden Foods makes them), or better yet ... make meals out of fresh produce.

  • Reduce packaging by not buying single-serving foods and beverages. Buy bulk items instead and then portion out servings into reusable containers.

  • Here's an interesting fact: Hard copy bills generate almost 700,000 tons of waste and almost two million tons of carbon dioxide. Wow! Opt for e-billing which is Eco-friendly and prevents ID theft.

  • Did you know that most of the cut flowers, available in the U.S., are imported from countries who use pesticides which are banned here? Rather than buy beautiful bouquets from the grocery store or a "big box" store, opt for organic blooms from local farms. Another idea ... go for lovely, organic plants ... they last longer and will provide clean air.

  • Are you into fishing? Most tackle boxes include some kind of fishing weight. Weights made from lead are toxic, poisoning wildlife such as loons and eagles. Opt for varieties made from steel, ceramic, tungsten or bismuth instead.

  • Plastic containers and plastic wrap marked "Microwave-safe" won't melt or crack in the microwave. But ... those words don't ensure that dangerous chemicals won't leach into food. So, opt for glass containers when microwaving ... and never let plastic wrap touch food directly.

  • Want to create a little ambiance with candle light? Try soy candles. They burn longer, cooler and produce 95% less soot than paraffin candles.

  • If you're thinking of replacing your carpets with flooring (which is, by the way, an Eco-friendly idea), consider a bamboo floor. It's a sustainable material, durable and as beautiful as traditional hardwood floors.

  • Need a good reason to switch from your desktop computer to a laptop? Here you go: laptops are 75% more energy efficient than desktops.

  • And finally, if you love NASCAR ... good news! NASCAR is going green:

Have a great weekend!

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

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fall planting, even if you hate gardening ...

Digging in the earth and planting things comes naturally to me. Some of my earliest memories are of my great uncle, taking me by the hand to his beautiful vegetable garden and helping me choose a perfect carrot. I have always loved the feel and smell of rich dirt and have felt a special excitement when plants first poke their little green heads out of the soil.

Typically, when we think of planting a garden or landscaping, we think of spring as the best time to get started. But fall, with it's cooler temperatures and, in most areas, increased moisture is also a prime planting season.

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. Flowers such as tulips, crocus and daffodils actually need the cold of winter as part of their growth cycle. Vegetables like kale, lettuce, spinach, and radishes do better under cooler conditions.

Successful landscaping and gardens which provide food are only two of the reasons to consider planting ... in the fall or anytime. Plants also offer many environmental benefits. Here are several:

  • Roots stabilize the soil and help prevent erosion.

  • Twigs, branches and leaves help prevent erosion by slowing down the amount of water, from rainfall, that hits the ground. This allows the ground to absorb the water rather than causing it to run off.

  • Moisture which evaporates from leaves helps to cool the air.

  • Branches and leaves provide shade and help reduce wind speed. They also absorb sound, reducing noise pollution.

  • Every part of a plant provides habitat for birds, animal and insect species.

  • And perhaps the greatest environmental benefit of a plant is it's ability to filter pollutants from the air and create oxygen. They are responsible for the very air we breathe.

Whether one loves to plant things ... or not so much ... planting is good for the environment ... and good for us.

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

Monday, September 7, 2009

Every action has a consequence ...

A couple of days ago, we went for a walk in a state park. At the entrance to one of the trails a sign had been posted informing hikers to "bee" aware. It went on to say that at this time of year, some varieties of bees nest in or near the ground and if a hiker mistakenly steps on the nest or disturbs it, a sting is likely.

A little further down the trail, a cicada sang loudly ... it sounded like it was on the ground. I had never actually seen a cicada, so we searched around and sure enough ... there it was ... on the ground ... singing and moving around. Curious (and wanting a better look), we picked it up ... and when we did, a bee flew off. Evidently the bee had stung the cicada, hoping for a meal ... but in our curiosity, we interrupted the process. The bee didn't get his lunch and the cicada died for nothing.

Later, at home, we sat on the patio (a small space) and noticed all kinds of dramas taking place. Two hummingbirds were chasing each other around the feeder ... a wasp was trapped in a spider's web, struggling to get away as the spider patiently waited nearby ... a mother sparrow was feeding a youngster who was big enough to feed itself but still wanted "mom" to do it while nearby a chipmunk was busy stuffing his cheeks full of seeds ... an ant laboriously carried a shell from a sunflower seed to an unknown location. Little dramas were being played out everywhere.

Each of these rather small events made me realize, once again, that our actions make a difference. We hear about the big actions ... removing wolves from an area and upsetting the balance of animal life or introducing a foreign plant to an area only to have it choke out the native plants ... but we don't often hear, or think about the little actions. Things like stepping on a bee's nest and destroying their world ... or letting our curiosity interrupt the natural life/death cycle of a bee and cicada. We don't really think about how killing a bunch of wasps changes the whole scheme of things or spraying ants destroys their world.

Everything we do has a consequence! Living an environmentally friendly life means understanding that fact and thinking about the consequences of our actions ... all of our actions, both big and small. It's not just using natural cleansers and recycling ... it's about paying attention to what we destroy when we leave the footpath and walk on plants ... or what we change when we try to free a struggling bug in a spider's web.

Today is a holiday in the U.S. Many people will be out enjoying the last unofficial weekend of summer. We're going to go and have a picnic in the forest. But this time, I'll walk gently and think about my actions.

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

Friday, September 4, 2009

Vegan Recipe - Summertime Eggplant Stew

“If 10,000 people replaced a beef meal with a vegetarian option just once a week for a year, we’d save enough water to fill roughly 605 Olympic-sized swimming pools”
Body + Soul Magazine, 2008

If you've been following this blog for any length of time, then you know that I promote meatless meals as one of the easiest ways to walk a little gentler on the earth. (Curious about why? Great ... click HERE to read an earlier post on the subject.) So, once a month (on the first Friday of each month), I post a vegan recipe for you to try. It is a fun, tasty way to reduce one's footprint on the earth.

This month's recipe comes from my bloggy friend, Amy Byrd, from The Wayland Springs Cook. In addition to writing a wonderful blog, Amy is the host of a food forum where she lists all kinds of recipes, including an entire section devoted to vegan/vegetarian dishes. If you like to cook, be sure to drop by Amy's forum.

This dish features two of my favorites ... eggplants and tomatoes. If ever a mouthful of food could epitomize summer ... then this one is it. I hope you enjoy it!

Summertime Eggplant Stew


1 large eggplant
4 large tomatoes chopped (use only fresh tomatoes for this recipe)
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4 tbs olive oil
3 tbs capers, chopped
1/3 cup green olives, chopped
Handful of chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese**
Salt/Pepper to taste

**In many recipes, I simply leave off the cheese to make it vegan. In this one, however, the Parmesan flavor adds a delightful element to the dish. So, to make it vegan, I suggest using one of the commercial vegan "cheeses" or ... make your own faux Parmesan (2 parts nutritional yeast, 1 part nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews or even sesame seeds, and salt to taste ... grind everything in the food processor and keep unused portions in the refrigerator).


Peel, seed, dice and toss eggplant with salt. Place in colander and weigh down with dish and heavy cans to extract the bitter juices for 1 hour.
Rinse and pat dry. Put aside.

In a pot place 4 tbs olive oil.
Sauté chopped onion a few minutes.
Add garlic, eggplant and tomatoes.

Cover and simmer 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust the heat if necessary to avoid burning.

Add olives and capers and continue cooking an additional 15 minutes.
Add handful of chopped fresh basil.
Use a spoon or potato masher to crush and blend the tomatoes and eggplant.

Continue simmering, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes. Stir in cheese.

My personal notes:
  • We are not at all sensitive to the bitter taste of eggplant. So, we didn't seed it or sweat it for an hour as suggested. We simply peeled it, diced it and started cooking.
  • In most recipes, one can cut down on the oil suggested. This recipe, however, benefits from the full amount of oil.
Happy eating!

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