Friday, January 29, 2010

Guest Author - Kelli from Thoughts of a Sober White Woman

On Monday we heard from Lesley who is just beginning a "Buy Nothing New Year". Today I thought it would be fun to hear from my bloggy friend Kelli who has just finished a whole year of a "No Spending Diet". You might remember Kelli from last June when she stopped in and shared a few of the unique ways she uses plastic bags (you can read that article HERE). Kelli also writes a fine blog called Thoughts of a Sober White Woman where she shares all kinds of things, including Eco-friendly ideas.

So ... sit back, relax and let's hear what Kelli has to say about her year:

Reduce Footprints asked me to write a follow up on a no spending diet, since I did it for a year.

Now let me explain a few things. I live in California, I have four teenagers, 2 dogs, and several cats and I have the honor of being mom to any marine that walks into my house. Oh and I have a husband who works his bum off just to provide for us, and he is the love of my life.

My daughters have traveled the world and one still wants to be a missionary, so every summer she is in a different country. I have a handicap son who tears his clothes up or he will hit a growth spurt and I still won't be able to have decent jeans for him. Our oldest son has a job and is joining the service. I am just glad that he does not grow anymore. Now if only I could fill up his hollow leg.

I started on my no spending journey, right after I got of the hospital. I was sitting in bed reading a magazine, when I read this article about a family that tried to spend no money ( except for basics) for a whole year. I guess I need something new to challenge me, after all what else does a mom with four teens suppose to do. I was just getting started on the challenge when my girlfriend and her mom flew in to see me. I shared the article with my girlfriend, and she said that she was going to try it as well.

So how did it go for me? I must say that it went rather well for ME. Hubby really did not want to do the challenge and the children could really care less weather I did it or not. However since I am the mom I made them make changes.

I had to go back and search my blog for some of the things that I did. First we got nothing "new". If we did not have it, then we bought it used. Now this may sound simple, and to some extent is. Lets talk about clothing for a moment. Hubby and I are not growing so it is very rare that either of us buy new clothing anyway. Our son Ryan however is very hard on his clothes. So this is where I had to get real creative at. Ryan will only wear white socks, but when I do his laundry I would notice that a lot of them had huge holes in them. I would throw those into the rag bag, and put the other one aside. I would eventually take all my one socks and match them up and put them in his drawer. Does anyone really see his socks? How many people are going to ask him to lift up his jeans so they can see if socks match? Who care if one has a green ring at the top and the other one does not.

For me personally I realized just how much clothing I had. During the summer I live in flip flops and swim suits. OH and Hubbys t shirts. So when I start going through all my summer stuff I realized how much I did not wear. I grabbed a bag and all of that went into the yard sale pile. You know, I am happy with my summer skirts, and two pairs of shorts. I NEED nothing more.

The same thing happened when winter came around. I must have gotten rid of a ton of sweaters and sweat shirts. It is amazing that when you force yourself to not buy new clothing you do realize how much you have and how much you can live without.

When it came to our food, I put down a few basic rules. If it was not bought when we went shopping then I would have to do without it until next payday. I also only allowed my self a certain amount of money, so that way I could not go out on payday on buy everything in sight.

There were times when I had to get real creative and force myself to not run to the store for one item. One time I was going to make bbq chicken sandwiches for dinner. Well I guess I forgot to buy bbq sauce. I started digging in the fridge and I found three half used bottles. I mixed them up and boom there was dinner. No emergency trip to the store, no wasted gas, no wasted money, and no wasted time. This also got me back to making a few things from scratch instead of buying it boxed. However once again it makes you realize how much you have. I must laugh because just today I found a box of those single serving things you mix into water. I actually made a pitcher of whatever it was.

I am a quilter so cutting back on material is just very hard. I had started cutting back a little bit, simply because material was getting very expensive. The more people I talk to, the more ideas I got. I now use "old" sheets as back of quilts. I use old blankets as batting for my quilts. Yes I am spending money, but I was not spending nearly as much as if I was going to the fabric store. My own local yard sales have worked out just fine. I have also found people giving away material and sheets, so I try to pick them up as much as possible.

My pets are my life. I have two big dogs. I don't think they are big, but I have been told that they are. I really did not change to much with them. I still bought the same food, and everything. However this summer I needed some extra water bowls for them to drink out of, so I found some old pans and buckets and I just used those when the dogs were outside.

I also have cats, and I do foster care for cats. While cats are very low maintenance animals they are also very picky animals. One of the problems I had was when they would get out of the litter box the would track litter everywhere. I could have gone out and bought one of those plastic mats, but I am not suppose to spend money. So I found some old sheets and towels. Now my litter boxes sit on top of them and they catch all the litter. Now all I have to do is shake them out and wash them.

I also foster bottle babies. At one point last year when I was at the shelter one of the workers took me into a storage room. She started offering me stuff and I turned it all down. I did not need dishes, I would find something at my house. No I don't need a litter pan, I had saved all my pie pans. No I don't need formula. I was digging in my pantry and I found some. I only ended up needing nipples. I know this is a no spending diet, and they were giving me the stuff, but I just could not see taking what I did not need.

I use a ton of lotion. Yep you guessed it I ran out. So I started going around to my daughters room and I gathered up all the lotion that had an inch of dust on it. Then I noticed they had a ton of body wash that was also covered in dust. I mixed all the almost empty bottles together. I used that body wash for the next two months, and I am still trying to use up all the lotion that I found. The girls now ask people to please not buy them lotion and body wash any more.

I have no idea how much money I saved. I would wait until the day before payday and what ever was left I would transfer into savings. However this is a list of things I was able to do with the money I did save.

1. I bought a new carpet cleaner, o.k. it was used but it was new to me.

2. We replaced the engine in hubby's truck, and paid cash for it.

3. We had a $200 vet bill and it did not stress us out.

While I was thinking about what else to say I caught myself not spending, and here is what I have learned. hornet spray will kill ant's. My daughters old tennis shoes fit me perfectly and they were in good shape, so guess who got a new pair of shoes? LOL I am drinking from an old star wars cup. It has lasted all these years and somehow my children have not broken it, so I don't care if people laugh me. It holds my drink.

I have finally decided that I am going to challenge myself again. Today I heard a saying: "If your grandmother would not recognize the food, then you should not be eating it." I wonder if my grandmother would recognize my cookies or cakes? After all mine come from a box or a bag. So this year I am going to make all of my cakes and cookies from scratch. The interesting part is going to see weather or not I can make a red velvet cake from scratch.

Remember by consuming less you are reducing and if we all reduced then there would be less in our trash and recycling cans, and we would be putting more green in our pockets.

I'd like to say a big Thank You to Kelli for sharing her experience with us. She really proves that one person can make a difference.

Do you think you could go on a "No Spending Diet" for year?

As always, I would love to hear from you!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Guest Author - Lesley from "My Turn To Talk"

I'd like to introduce you to one of my newest "bloggy" friends, Lesley from My Turn To Talk. Lesley is a freelance writer and one visit to her site will have you giggling in no time. In her very first post, she talked about a discussion her parents had with her older sister about what the newest member of their family should be named. Here's how Lesley describes it: "Our last name was Dale, and she thought a perfect first name would be "Diarrhea." Fortunately, her parents didn't take the suggestion but ... it seems that Lesley's birth started a lifetime of creative, witty, and funny writing.

Visiting Lesley's blog would be worthwhile just for the "grins and giggles" but ... she's also doing something else ... something "green". She's embarked on what she calls BNNY (Buy Nothing New Year). As some of you may remember, early on in our Change The World Wednesday challenges, we tried a "No Spending Diet" for a week. Lesley, however, is doing it for a year. Along the way, she's writing about it, sharing a lot of tips.

Lesley has graciously agreed to talk to us about her BNNY resolution. Here's what she has to say:

I'm a shallow person. I admit it. I live in a comfortable house, in a comfortable Dallas suburb, with a comfortable lifestyle that allows me to take virtually everything for granted.

But over the course of Thanksgiving weekend, my perspective changed.

It started at church. Instead of a normal service, our pastor gave a short sermon and then sent us out grocery shopping. We were going to "be Jesus" to the community by stocking up the local food pantries. Very cool.

Fifteen churches in the area did the same thing. The results were amazing. Thousands of people went shopping. Tons of food were collected. Trucks were filled. The food pantries estimated that all these supplies would last them ... three weeks.

I was stunned.

My next little revelation came on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. I had my eye on a new TV, so hubby and I got up at 3:45 am to hit the sales. So did everybody else in the metroplex.

If you like to shop, Dallas is the place for you. There are three huge malls, at least five WalMarts and who knows how many Target stores within 15 miles of my house. Seriously. I can walk to a Super Kroger that looks like a food museum, and they just built a Super Duper Kroger a few miles up the road that I've heard has a furniture department. Really. Swear to Gucci.

Anyway. You'd think, with all these stores, that the Black Friday crowds would be pretty well dispersed. But when we got to Target at ungodly-thirty a.m., there were hundreds of people in line. By the time I yelled at my husband "GRAB THAT CART! IT'S THE LAST ONE! GOOOOOO!!!" - the entire electronics department was empty, except for a couple of DustBusters and a small, crying child.

We went to Best Buy two days later and got my TV. No problem. No crowds. No big deal.

But I now had two pictures in my mind. The first picture had hundreds of people in it, rushing into a store to buy anything and everything. There were shopping carts with 2 or 3 TVs, and aisles full of toys, and racks and racks of clothing. There were credit cards whipping out of wallets left and right.

The second picture was an empty food pantry.

That was when my idea began. What if I gave up shopping for a year? What if I bought nothing new, and donated the money I saved to a worthy cause? What would that be like? What would it teach me?

And so, my Buy Nothing New Year began. We are almost a month into it, and I've made a few adjustments so far.

Ebay is my new favorite activity. I have discovered a used book store and the public library. And I unsubscribed from umpteen email lists which were sending me not-so-subliminal messages on a daily basis.

I received a catalog from J.Jill yesterday, and I had to throw it away without looking. They used to call me whenever they had a sale. They'd even have little wine and cheese parties sometimes. The sales girls know me by name ...sigh ...

Told you I was shallow. But I'm working on it.

A huge thank you to Lesley for sharing her BNNY adventures with us. Now, everyone, run over to Lesley's place and follow her ... it's going to be great fun to follow her journey.

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

Friday, January 22, 2010

Green Olympics?

Last week my bloggy friend Ron, From Destination: Where the F is Ron? asked "I'm here covering the Olympic torch relay as it makes its way to Vancouver and I keep hearing that it will be the "greenest" games in history. I'd like to pick your brain: Do you think it's feasible to have a green Olympics--or is it just a slogan or gimmick to make people believe it's green? Would love to hear your thoughts."

It's an interesting question and got me wondering ... can any gathering, such as fairs, festivals, concerts or sporting events, ever be "green"? After all ... any time there is a large gathering of people, there are environmental issues ... things like energy and water consumption, land use, waste, transportation options and levels, accommodations ... even noise pollution. Often, buildings and structures are erected for these events ... and just as often, they are torn down after the event creating more waste.

My personal feeling is that no, if we're thinking strictly about an event's carbon footprint, I don't think they are "green". That being said, most of these events have other beneficial qualities ... the Olympics encourage civic pride and promote health and athleticism. They also give their host city an economic boost. Fairs and festivals encourage unity ... on a small scale, they are often family-friendly and encourage "wholesome" activities ... on a large scale, they have often been used to bring people together in support of others (the Live Aid concert was held in support of people in Ethiopia ... there are currently concerts being planned to help in the Haiti relief efforts). So ... it becomes a balance between their environmental impact and their social benefits.

There is another side to consider ... will these events be discontinued if they are deemed less than environmentally friendly ... or will they occur anyway? I'm reasonably sure they will occur anyway.

Do I think "green" Olympics are a gimmick? No ... not at all. Once we get beyond the fact that any gathering is going to have environmental concerns, we can focus on efforts to make them as green as possible. The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics Committee has put a few things in place. They are advertising and promoting green games ... this actually gets people thinking about their environmental footprint and plants the seed in attendees' minds to look for Eco-friendly opportunities at the event (like using recycle bins and reusable drink containers). Venues were chosen based on minimizing the environmental impact of travel, accommodations and land use. LEED principals were incorporated in building construction. One of the planning committee's most impressive moves is their Buy Smart program. This program includes specific criteria when choosing suppliers ... things like their environmental programs and sustainability efforts, whether they are Aboriginal-owned or employ Aboriginal people, etc.

I have often said that living a green life takes balance. In a perfect world, none of our actions would distress the environment in any way. But, this isn't a perfect world. So, we make the best choices possible and we do what we can. The Olympics will have an environmental impact but, they are also doing their best to minimize that impact.

Doing our best ... isn't that all we can ask?

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

Monday, January 18, 2010

Global Warming? But It's Cold Outside!

Most areas of the U.S., as well as many areas in other countries, have been struggling this winter with cold, cold temperatures. As we bundle up and brace ourselves for that blast of arctic air which hits our faces as we leave the house, it's hard to believe that global warming is an issue. In fact, some people argue that this cold winter is evidence that there is no such thing as global warming.

Let's start with a definition from Wikipedia: "Global warming is the increase in the average temperature of Earth's near-surface air and oceans since the mid-20th century and its projected continuation."

Here's one from the EPA: "Global warming is an average increase in the temperature of the atmosphere near the Earth's surface and in the troposphere, which can contribute to changes in global climate patterns. Global warming can occur from a variety of causes, both natural and human induced. In common usage, "global warming" often refers to the warming that can occur as a result of increased emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities."

So ... we're not talking about a cold winter or even a hot summer. We're talking about an overall trend. And that trend shows us that the average temperature, near the earth's surface, is increasing:

As you'll notice ... the trend started out relatively flat and then it started to increase ... with the sharpest incline occurring during the last 20-30 years. It has been argued that global warming is the natural progression of a planet's life. And that's true. But one wonders if natural elements would have caused the dramatic spike in temperatures. Most experts say that the accelerated warming is caused by human activity.

So ... why do we care? After all, a warming trend ... and a change in climate ... is not necessarily bad for everyone. Some areas will find that warmer temperatures allow them to grow larger and more varied crops. And after this year's seriously cold temperatures, who wouldn't want the comfort of warm weather? But consider this ... a slight warming, over a long period of time, wouldn't be a big deal because all life would adapt. For example, as heat patterns slowly changed, altering the amount of available food, animal life would learn to consume other things or perhaps move to an area where there is adequate food. But that's not what's happening ... we're warming up fast, leaving no time to adjust to a new climate. Consequently, species are being lost. As you've heard me say, countless times, I believe that species extinction will have a direct, negative impact on our life.

What can we do? I'm happy you asked. Here are a few ideas:

  • Reduce energy consumption (use energy efficient appliances, change light bulbs to CFLs or LEDs, etc.)
  • Clean the air filters on your heating/cooling unit
  • Reduce water consumption
  • Eat meatless meals and avoid processed foods
  • Buy local and organic
  • Use "elbow grease" instead of electric power (use a push mower instead of a power mower ... use a broom or rake instead of a leaf blower)
  • Keep the car in good working order (check the tires for proper inflation, fix any leaks, etc.)
  • Reduce emissions while driving by going easy on the brake pedal and gas pedal
  • Turn off the engine rather than idle (except when idling at a traffic light)
  • Remove stuff from the trunk of a car and lighten it's weight (saves gas)
  • Carpool or take public transportation
  • Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

As you bundle up to head out into freezing temperatures ... just remember ... global warming is real and we, humans, are the cause of it's acceleration. Let's slow it back down.

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

Friday, January 15, 2010

Environmental Beauty

I have this belief that living an environmentally-friendly life means not just protecting the earth but also protecting every living thing on the earth. While I personally try never to kill anything .. plant, animal or otherwise ... that's not really what I'm talking about. I'm talking about how and what humans take from nature ... that desire to be excessive ... the idea that if one thing is good, then a billion things is better ... with no thought to sustainability.

If one studies nature, it is apparent that there is balance ... and if left alone, nature seems to check itself. When food is available, a species thrives and typically becomes food for another species, higher on the food chain. Or, if predators don't control populations, the species will grow until the food source can no longer sustain it ... and starvation will check population growth.

At one time in human history, people were part of that balance. We took what we needed to survive but nothing more. Then, man got greedy and decided that more was better. And that had an impact on every species on the earth.

Even at that point, man could almost be forgiven his gluttony ... after all, he was taking plants and animals which would be sold for food and clothing. Necessities! But then, man got preoccupied with status and wealth and looking good. Exotic animal populations were devastated because man (and woman) wanted unusual boots, furs, beautiful feathers in their hats, and trophies on their wall. And "balance" became a thing of the past.

And that's the part I have a problem with ... taking so much from nature that species become extinct. Let's face it ... we don't exactly know what will happen to us as various species forever disappear. We don't know what it will do to the quality of our life ... or to our very existence. I'm guessing that it could be devastating.

While I wandered around the Internet last month, I came upon a disturbing trend ... ornamental feathers. I started to see posts and ads about jewelry made with feathers ... about boas and headbands and dusters and shawls ... all made with beautiful, exotic feathers. They were, indeed, beautiful! But I began to wonder how those feathers were obtained. I'd like to say that feathers were collected as birds molted. But, that's just not the case. They are obtained in ways that I won't mention here ... it's too ugly.

In the US, laws state that feathers can only be obtained from domesticated birds. So, the majority of them are a by-product of the poultry industry. But are we simply using every part of the bird, as advertisers would tell us ... or are birds being raised specifically for their feathers? We've talked about the environmental cost of raising animals ... it's extremely high. Additionally, if the demand for ornamental feathers increases, does anyone believe that it won't be met ... and met with more and more exotic species? That opens us up for the reduction and/or elimination of bird species because of their beauty. It happened in the 1800s ... it could happen today.

We've talked about meatless meals ... because they are environmentally friendly. Let's expand that to include meatless, or animal free products ... because they are also environmentally friendly.

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

Monday, January 11, 2010

Guest Author ... Bill O'Reilly and Me, by Tom Rooney

When you want the facts on environmental issues, where do you go for information? The Internet ... the library ... television? Many people turn on "news" programs ... but these days, "news" programs are more about ratings and less about the facts.

I'd like to introduce you to Tom Rooney, CEO of SPG Solar. He recently took issue with the words of a popular television personality. His report shows us that we have to dig a little deeper than so-called "news" programs if we truly want to be informed consumers.

Bill O'Reilly and Me
By Tom Rooney

I’m not a Bill O’Reilly hater. Neither do I camp out in front of my television five nights a week to watch the world’s most dominant cable TV news host.

To steal a phrase from Bill O, himself: ‘I’m just one of the folks’ -- who happens to be the CEO of a large company that builds solar energy systems.

So it was with great interest when, in between talking football with one son, aviation with another, and getting my daughter squared away on college, and of course talking to my lovely bride, that I caught Bill O’s riff on solar energy.

“I’d like to put solar panels on my house,” said Bill O, the most dominant newscaster in the history of cable TV news. “And heat my house through the sun. I would like to do that for a reasonable amount of money. I don’t want to buy the oil every month. They can’t do it for a reasonable amount of money, number one.

“And its so complicated ... I can’t do it. ... So don’t tell me about my grandchildren. If they can figure out the solar panels, they can have them. But its all bunk. It’s all bull at this point for a guy like me. ...I want a clean planet. But I’d like the stuff to work.”

So there you have it: In the world according to cable news superstar Bill O, solar is too complicated and too expensive.

Bill O may have been living up to the old saying that ‘journalism is the art of speaking with absolute authority about something you know nothing about.” But in doing so, he also violated the top -- and probably only -- rule of journalism: If your mother says she loves you, check it out.’

He did not.

Here’s why: O’Reilly’s remarks came just a few hours after the Irvine Unified School District selected my company, SPG Solar of Novato, California, to install one of the most ambitious solar school projects in the country. With panels on 21 of its schools, the district will save at least $17 million over the life of the 20 year project; and will produce about half of its energy.

This will be an immediate 10 percent reduction in the district’s energy bills.

And ready for the best part, Bill O?

All at no cost to the district.

The financing is not complicated: The cost of buying and installing panels has come down so much, and incentives are so good, that the Irvine school district was able to finance this system through the savings it realized from going solar.

The building and operation is not complicated either. Not even for a Long Island mansion.

At least not compared to the solar energy system we installed at one of the great wineries of the world, Far Niente in Napa Valley. There we built the world’s first solar panels that float.

That may have been a challenge to build, but now that it is up and running, the only thing the winery operators have to do is sit back and watch the sun shine. When it doesn’t, the backup from the grid kicks in.

Without any assistance from anyone. It is seamless and automatic and not noticeable, Bill O.

SPG Solar also built five acres of solar panels at one of the most desolate -- and beautiful -- places in the world: The Furnace Creek Resort and Hotel in Death Valley, California.

But now that it is up and running, this solar system is generating power that could have come from a nuclear plant or a few thousands chipmunks on treadmills, for all guests know.

In Livermore, we built the world’s largest solar array ever put on a movie theater -- and all the time the patrons never knew we were there.

Bill O is a smart guy. No doubt about that. But some times even smart guys who don’t pay attention can be in the dark about America’s brightest technology, solar power.

I'd like to thank Mr. Rooney for that report. My personal feeling is that living a green life means that we take responsibility for making informed decisions. Becoming informed is not always easy. But we owe it to ourselves to search out all sides of an issue and listen to what everyone has to say. Mr. Rooney, of course, supports solar panels ... Mr. O'Reilly, it seems, does not. But hearing both sides helps us know the issue better.

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

Friday, January 8, 2010

Vegan Recipe - Cabbage Medley

One of the easiest ways to reduce one's carbon footprint is to eat meatless meals. Why? Well, the fact is that plant based foods take far fewer natural resources to produce than foods derived from animals. For example, water ... it is estimated that to produce a single pound of beef it takes 1,800 - 2,500 gallons of water. A single pound of tofu (made from soy beans) takes approximately 220 gallons of water. That's quite a difference.

If you're shaking your head at this point, thinking that there is no way you could switch to a vegetarian diet ... well ... good news ... switch to just one plant-based meal a week to have a positive impact on the earth. Consider this ... “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. Isn't that amazing?

Still need a little encouragement? Well, each month ... right here on Reduce Footprints ... we'll post a vegan recipe ... something to tease your taste buds and delight your tummies. Ready to give it a try?

This month's recipe comes from jperceval at Delphi Forums. It was adapted from a recipe found in the original PETA cookbook The Compassionate Cook. I found it to be easy and delicious ... true comfort food on a cold winter's evening. I hope you enjoy it!



1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 Medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 Head green cabbage, thinly sliced or grated
2 Veggie "sausage patties" *
1/2-3/4 Cup vegetable stock *
Cooked whole wheat pasta (amount varies based on your preference)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder *
grated Parmesan cheese, to taste *

* denotes changes and/or additions to the original PETA recipe.


In a large frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat and saute the onion until translucent and starting to become tender. Add the cabbage and veggie sausage and saute until cabbage gets a little caramel color. Break up sausage as it cooks. Add the stock, lower heat, cover, and simmer until cabbage softens to your liking. Add the cooked pasta and stir until heated through. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Serve in a bowl with grated Parmesan on top.

Doesn't that sound great? It's easy, delicious and ... earth-friendly. What could be better!

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