Posts Tagged With: environmentally responsible

Pre-Cycling: Reducing and Reusing

Most of us know the tri-arrow symbol we associate with “recycling,” but the three arrows are actually meant to represent the concepts of “reduce, reuse, AND recycle.”  So, the notion of pre-cycling captures the reduce and reuse steps of the cycle.recycling-7 Reducing the waste we create is something that takes some forethought.  A lot of us assume that we can “just” recycle some goods, and our job is done.  But recycling really does use a lot of energy in and of itself.  In some cases, objects that are represented as recyclable are actually limited in their ability to be recycled.  Many communities have limitations on what they can accept for recycling, especially in the way of plastics. Glass, aluminum, tin, and steel are considered to be the most readily recyclable.  Glass bottles are the easiest to recycle because they can just be washed, refilled, and recapped.  If you live in a place that continues a bottle deposit program, you know that you can get money back on glass bottles.  Also, aluminum is another recyclable that pays per pound in most communities. website.18982634_stdSo, I’m just going to come right out and say it.  I hate Tetra-Paks, juice boxes, drink pouches, chip bags, and plastic bottles of WATER.  The plastic water bottles are an easy fix–don’t buy them, find a water fountain, buy a portable water bottle of your choosing, or if you are desperate, go ahead and buy the water and refill it for free!  It’s water, people.  If you don’t like the way it tastes from your tap, buy a filter.  Yes, filters are meant to be disposable, but they last for about 2-3 months and is tiny by comparison to the hundreds of bottles you’d buy for “good-tasting” water.  And we all know that much of the bottled waters we have spent extra money to buy is another city’s tap water, right?  It’s time to get over this mindset that bottled water is a good idea.  It’s not. Tetra-Paks and juice boxes (often one in the same) are convenient storage containers for liquids and come in variations on the theme of cardboard on the outside, aluminum and plastic on the inside.  The plastic is supposed to bpa-free, which is better for the foods contained inside (at least it makes them healthier to eat).  They are also exceptional at storing milk and other “spoilable” liquids for a very long time.  Better storage does mean less waste of the product itself, but these packages are very difficult to recycle.  Some Tetra-Paks exclude aluminum, which makes them somewhat easier to recycle, but not many municipalities even accept Tetra-Paks (at least in the U.S.).  It is the complexity of the multilayer packaging that makes it difficult to separate and repurpose.  Your best bet, if possible, is to avoid buying products in these packages. What’s worse, perhaps than the the Tetra-Paks, is the “drink pouch.”  Those infamous Capri Sun silver packets of usually 10% juice + water + sugar came into existence about 25 years ago.  That makes 25 years of kid-licious drinks packaged in this (from Kraft’s FAQ page):  “CAPRI SUN pouches are polyester-reverse side printed to aluminum then laminated to polyethylene (a plastic polymer). Unfortunately, this packaging is not recyclable.”  If you have been to a kid’s birthday party or soccer game or during lunchtime at a school cafeteria, you know the popularity of these never-gonna-be-recycled packages of drinks.  The best thing for this?  Do not purchase them, unless you absolutely must.  I don’t want to say an aluminum can of anything is better, but at least you can recycle cans. So, now that you are thinking about it, you are probably thinking about the packaging for granola bars, candy, chips, heck, even the plastic netting that a 3-pound bag of onions comes in…what do we do with it?  Obviously, you can stop buying pre-packaged foods and non-essential packaging.  It takes some training, but start a hoard of paper bags and use them for whatever…paper is much more easily recycled, but a good paper bag will last at least 10 uses.  Those plastic netting bags can be wadded up and used as a kitchen sink scrub, or taken back to the grocery store to be used for your next batch of fresh fruits and vegetables.  I’ve been using one to collect the fallen pecans around the neighborhood. It’s healthier to avoid complex packaging, especially when it comes to food.  I know you want to still live a “regular” life, though, and the idea that you are going to make all of your own stuff from “scratch” to save on packaging is probably not realistic.  With a little planning on the weekends, though, you can create some healthier snacks that can be taken to school or work in reusable containers (optionally wrapped in paper or aluminum foil), or stored at home in a cookie jar or other reusable container.  I know it sounds daunting for some parents, but when you think about what all goes into the landfill from just your house, and multiply that by all of the people in your town, and multiply that by all of the towns in your state, country, continent…we are a wasteful bunch of slugs that need to reconsider what we are doing to the planet just for the sake of sugar, water, and snacks. I ran across this quote recently and I think it is something to consider:  “The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives.” ~ Native American Proverb, Sioux Sorry for being on the preachy side, but it’s time to consider the consequences of our actions.  This is just one tiny aspect of the impact we have with our carelessness…think of what impact we can have if we try to change it for the better with intent!

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Make It Yourself – Simple & Sweet – ONLY 6 Days ’til Christmas!

ornaments

I know! It’s crunch time! Only six days left until December 25th! You have gifts to give and not a lot of time to go hunting down special items to give to friends and family that are in keeping with the whole “green & healthy” thing you are trying. AND you are probably thinking you don’t have time to make stuff, either, because “OMG the mess!” or you think of yourself as “craft-challenged.” Or maybe you think your unconvinced giftees won’t want your homemade crafty crap. And maybe they won’t (because, hey, some people are just like that—whatevs).

But maybe, JUST MAYBE, a Christmas miracle will happen and that anti-green Scrooge in your life will realize that the simplicity of your gift is a perfect representation of the spirit of the season. Or that the freshness of essential oil fragrances are not only sweet to smell, but also elegant in their homes, and uplifting to the spirits. Or—and this would be the best realization—that these homemade things are really superior to the chemical laden versions they are used to buying in the stores. AND, you can even let them in on your crafting secret, if you so choose, and share the cost savings with them, because srsly, people…a little goes a long way.

And it’s not hard, I promise. If you can melt stuff, you can make some amazing gifts for people. Here’s a guide to making candles and a balm that is commonly referred to as “un-petroleum jelly” but works well for lips and soothing chapped hands. I *could* go into making soap, but that’s pretty involved and you don’t have time for that, but tune in during January and I’ll share my soap-making secrets with you, too.

Making Candles
First, you DO have to go to a decent craft store or some location where you can buy wicks, soy wax, and/or beeswax. Also, you need some containers. I used recycled jars with the labels soaked off (a little orange oil will take off any sticky remainders, and alcohol will take off any inky date-stamps). Beware that the size wicks you need to buy are dependent upon the diameter of your jars. For example, your average spaghetti jar is somewhere between 3-4 inches in diameter. Just look at the wick package–it should tell you what size container they are for.  Be sure your wicks are lead and zinc free, and for the sake of ease, look for the kind with the “pre-glued” metal disk (also called a “tab” in the candle-making world) that you can stick to the bottom of the jar. If they don’t have the pre-glued kind, pick up a pack of the candle wick stickers or Stickum that should be in the same candle section of the craft store as the wax.

Now you have a choice at this point to splurge on a wax melter like this (also called a pouring pot):pouring pot

Or just use your own pots/pans to do this. Most of your ingredients are food grade, and should clean up readily with the help of paper-towels and heat, so you can opt to use what you have, or head over to Goodwill and pick up some cast-offs. Your choice. I bought a wax melter because I am serious about making these things for a good long time and wanted the handle and pour spout to make my life a little easier. You need to set up a double-boiler situation, for this project (a larger pan with water in it, and a smaller pan or bowl goes over this to melt the wax with the boiling water’s heat, not direct stove heat).

If you have a vegan giftee, please note that you should avoid using beeswax in your candles.

Now, for calculating how much wax you will need, there’s a formula. Each pound of wax (16 ounces by weight) will fill about 20 ounces of volume. You could, in this instance, make it super easy on yourself and find some 20 ounce jars for your gifts—that way you just have to melt a pound for each one. But, if you’d like a formula with more explanation, check out this blog post.

For the sake of making this quick and easy for you, I’m going to assume you will be using a 16 ounce jar (this is a pint-size canning jar (aka mason jar), which can be found at your local grocery or craft store). I’m also going to assume that you just want to make one candle, but you can just increase the recipe by however many times for more candles.

You will need:
Double Boiler
1 16-ounce glass jar, preferably intended for canning or previously used as such
1 tabbed wick, at least 2 inches taller than the height of your jar
1 wick sticker (to attach the wick to the bottom of the jar, if needed)
2 drinking straws, chopsticks, pencils, etc. (to help you stick the wick to the bottom of the jar, and to hold the wick upright during the cooling period)
4 ounces beeswax (if vegan, just replace this four ounces with additional soy wax)
9 ounces soy wax
Essential oils in the following combination:
25 drops of clove
22 drops of lemon
15 drops of cinnamon
10 drops of eucalyptus
8 drops of rosemary
(this is a historical blend of essential oils that has the reputation of not only smelling amazing, but also working as an effective anti-bacterial)

NOTE: If you don’t have these essential oils on hand, you can work out your own blend, but it should be about 80 drops per 1-jar recipe. Be advised that most essential oils are flammable and need to be kept away from open flames.

Prepare your container by ensuring it is clean, dry, and sitting near your work area…you want it to be a little warm when you pour the wax in.

Get the double boiler set up and the water heating.

Attach the wick tab to the bottom of the jar with a wick sticker or stick-um, using the straw (or chopstick or pencil) to help you really push it down. Make sure it is centered in the jar for even candle-burning.

Add your wax to the top of the double boiler, and wait for it to melt. You can stir the wax around a little to help it melt, but don’t do so too vigorously or you will end up with a bubbly candle that burns unevenly. Don’t walk away from the wax at this point. It shouldn’t take long for all the wax to melt. Make sure the double boiler doesn’t run out of water, but also be sure that no water gets in your wax, or again…uneven burning or a wick that won’t work.

Once all the wax is melted, you can turn the heat down on the double boiler, but leave the wax over the hot water. Add your essential oils and stir well to distribute the scent throughout the wax. Pour this mixture into your prepared jar. Leave the jar in a place it will not be disturbed and wait for it to cool. Use your tools of choice to prop the wick to an upright and centered position in the jar.

DON’T clean up yet! As your candle cools, you may notice a “well” developing in the center of your candle around your wick. All you need to do is melt a little more wax, add a few more drops of essential oil, and pour it into this well. Depending on how warm or cool your house is, it should take about an hour for the candle to solidify (at least mine did). At this point, you can trim your wick, to about a ¼ of an inch and decorate your jar for gifting.  Voila! They’ll look something like these from the gardentherapy site

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

For the balm I mentioned above, aka “unpetroleum jelly,” you can go through the same double-boiler process of melting stuff together, but this time it’s going to be a little bit of wax mixed with your oils and/or butters of preference. This is my recipe:

For 8 ounces of balm:

2 4-ounce jars (like baby food or pimento pepper jars)
1 ounce of beeswax (or soy wax for a vegan balm)
1 ounce of cocoa butter
4 ounces of coconut oil
1 ounce of olive oil
1 ounce of Vitamin E oil
40 drops of your essential oils of choice (I use the same combo as above, but half of each oil)

NOTE:  You can also use shea or mango butter instead of cocoa butter, if you prefer.

Prep your jars…baby food jars are a great size for this product—you will need two. Or if you can find smaller glass “pots” for a purse-sized, use those. Make sure they are clean and dry.

Melt the beeswax, cocoa butter, coconut oil, and olive oil together in a double boiler. Once everything is melted, turn the heat off the double boiler, and add the Vitamin E oil and essential oils to the still-hot mixture and blend well.

Pour the mixture into the jars and let solidify.  Decorate the jar to your liking!

BAM!  A second homemade gift item, just like that!

I LOVE this balm. I put it on when I sleep at night and wake up with perfect lips every morning. Do be careful with some essential oils—they can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. If you use one such essential oil in this balm, be careful not to let your lips get sunburned when you use it outdoors.   Please note that this is going to be more solid than actual petroleum jelly, but it works wonders, I promise.

So, there you have it. Two amazing gifts you can give to friends and family. You can add a store-bought soap (South of France brand is a fave of mine), or a clove-studded orange (which becomes a pomander once it is fully dried), and you have the perfect green and healthy AND homemade gift.

Whew! I think this post might be my longest yet, but it’s so worth it!  Good luck with your crunch-time gift making!

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What Matters Most?

Since we are getting close to the new year, I’m planning my future research and product reviews and wanted to pose to the people: What matters most to you?

I’ve listed the top-ten most common things that crop up as questions regarding the healthful qualities of a better-for-you product.

Please let me know what matters to you and I’ll put those things highest on my list to delve into this coming year.

And thanks in advance for playing along!

The Southern Girl

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Green ‘n Healthy Gift Baskets Ideas – Part 2 (Minty Spicy Delights!)

So, last time I wrote, I recommended a slew of “beach-themed” gift-basket fillers for the person on your gift list who yearns for summertime year round. For something more seasonally appropriate for winter and holidays and warm-feely-good feelings, you might be looking for gifts that have more some traditional fragrances like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, mint, or pine. Try some of these green & healthy products for a wintery-basket for those who relish the season of snow!

For some sweet, Christmas-y perfumes, look no farther than Demeter. Demeter makes all kinds of crazy scents that are “at least 95% derived from natural and sustainable sources, and…use no artificial color or phthalates or parabens” (from their website). The best-reviewed holiday-themed fragrances are: Egg Nog, Christmas in New York, Cinnamon Toast, or Fraser Fir. They also came out with a Candy Cane Truffle this year. Sounds delish! This is a very affordable perfume line and the fragrances are great for layering. I recommend spraying this perfume on clothing, rather than skin, for a longer-lasting effect. Since Demeter doesn’t use the harmful phthalate-based chemicals, these fragrances do tend to volatilize faster than non-natural perfumes when sprayed directly on the skin.

candy cane truffle

For a good body wash, look for JASON Orange Clove, Cranberry, or Frosted Plum. I’ve seen some combo packs with a natural sponge included for about $6. JASON is a company created and committed to the purpose of providing healthy products based upon scientific knowledge and human-based testing, only. This product is terrifically moisturizing, too, which means it will not only smell great, but also chase away the itchiness of the dreaded winter skin. Hooray!

You might also want to try Nourish Organic’s Spiced Citrus body wash paired with the Spiced Orange Hydrating & Smoothing lotion…these products are certified organic and come highly recommended not only for the lasting and delicious fragrances, but also for the product effectiveness and extremely high standards of purity. Nourish Organic also promises the following: “No parabens. No phthalates. No sulfates, petrochemicals, synthetic dyes, or silicones. No propylene glycol, mineral oils, synthetic dyes, triclosan, EDTA, or aluminum. And absolutely no artificial fragrances or preservatives. Period” (from their website). They are also cruelty free, use recycled packaging, and most products are vegan (except those containing beeswax). They also have several products in Lavender Mint, which is seasonal, but also can be used year-round.

spiced citrus

Everybody knows Aveda, right? They are preferentially featured in fancy hotels and chic hair salons and their Rosemary Mint is a great, greeny-wintery fragrance that works well for men and women. You might be a little reluctant to buy hair products for your giftee because everyone has hair product issues, but you should be fine getting the body lotion and maybe even a bar of soap in the Rosemary Mint. According to their website: “Aveda’s products are formulated without parabens, phthalates and sodium lauryl sulfate.” And their “definition of a green ingredient requires that it meet at least one of the following criteria: Be naturally derived, which we define to be those for which more than 50% of the molecule comes from a plant, non-petroleum mineral, water, or some other natural source; be certified organic; and/or be sourced from sustainable or renewable plant-based origins, and does not negatively impact the ecosystems from which they are sourced.” And because they do specialize in hair products, look for the travel-sized sampler—enough to try and still experience the splurge of a special product.

And you might like to try a few things from Love + Toast, which touts its products as having “No parabens, no phthalates, no mineral oil, no propylene glycol, no retinol, no synthetic color, never animal tested.” Sounds cool, right?

Wait. I just realized something.

Maybe you’ve noticed a plethora of citrus-y things on this list…It just now occurred to me that “citrus” might not seem Christmas-y to many people. Well, before I recommend yet more citrus for this list, let me explain. When I was a kid, on Christmas Eve, there was always a big church pageant with the kids and a candlelit “Silent Night,” and when we left church all sleepily excited for Santa (yes, the cultural amalgam of religious/secular Christmas was completely, overwhelmingly, and magically confusing), some dear soul at our church passed out mesh stockings full of oranges, grapefruits, apples, uncracked nuts, and hard candy. The smell of those ripe oranges and grapefruits in the midst of the cold, quiet hush before bed has been burned into my olfactory memory forever. Put my grandmother’s orange-spiced tea recipe with that and I’m in Christmas heaven. That’s why oranges and grapefruits equal Christmas. Sorry if it doesn’t for you (but get these things anyway, because hello, they smell delicious!)…

ANYWAY, Love + Toast has a “classic” collection called Mandarin Tea that features a blend of these fragrances: African rooibos, Pomegranate, Neroli, and Orange blossom. YUM. The collection includes one of each: Handcreme, Eau de Parfum, Little Luxe Eau de Parfum, and Vanilla Chai Lip Balm.  They also have a classic scent called “Sugar Grapefruit” that just sounds good enough to eat!  One of their newer fragrances is Persimmon Plum, a wonderful blend of fruity + woodsy that will be sure to remind your giftee of a delicious, juicy winter punch. They have body butter and sugar scrubs among other body care items to choose from. Sounds marvelous!

persimmon plum

And again, fill your basket or stocking with some all-natural extras like a pumice stone or natural-fiber wash cloths, a loofah or a natural-bristle nail brush to round out the gift set.

Next up: MAKE IT YOURSELF! (I promise it’s easy and people will be so impressed)

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Holidays are coming…are y’all getting ready?

There are so many things to get ready for!  It’s overwhelming, right?

Well, maybe this year will be different.  Maybe this year you can be greener since you are already planning in advance and you actually have time to do some green planning.  I posted a few holiday ideas last year…you can read them here, here, here, and so on and so forth…go take a peek! But enough of last year…this is 2013, baby!  We need to send it off in style!  A more environmentally-friendly and healthier style, that is.

So…where to begin?

At this stage in the holiday games…Thanksgiving is first usually pretty easy, right…it’s all about food!  Some green tips:

1. Go Local!  Try to buy as much of your menu ingredients as you can from your local farmer’s market, or from a grocery store that sources produce and meat from your local region.  Of course, there are special dishes traditional to Thanksgiving like cranberry sauce and pecan pies and apple pies and whatever might be your family’s favorite that are just never going to be local to you.  That’s fine, but do what you can.

Why? Not only will you support your local economy and hard-working farmers, but you save the environmental impact of whatever fuel it costs to get the food to you–that’s a smaller carbon footprint and reduced greenhouse gasses!  And you know…it wouldn’t hurt to be adventurous and introduce more local ingredients to your Thanksgiving table, even if they aren’t “traditional.”  Mix it up a little!  Make NEW traditions!

2. Be vegetarians!  GASP!  I know, I know…but seriously folks…we all know the sides are the best part of the meal and most sides are already vegetarian.  When I first told my parents I was not eating meat anymore, they sort of panicked about what I was going to eat, but when my plate was full of potatoes, dressing, three different salads, green beans, candied applies, and a big ol’ roll, I told them, “Look, I don’t even have room for the meat!”  And they got it.  Surprise, surprise!

Why?  Livestock and poultry production is problematic in a variety of ways.  It is beyond an environmental stressor.  Do a little research of your own.  Start here. And the animals are all so beautiful. And who wants to stress out about a dry turkey? Just skip it. And if you really want to have an even more positive impact on the environment…it might be a little bit harder…but try a vegan meal. Maybe not this Thanksgiving, but next? I’ll just let you ponder that…

3. Decorate (if you are into that sort of thing) with…food! Fruits and veggies are traditional fillers for a Thanksgiving cornucopia, all in the harvest theme, of course. The thing with this type of decor is, of course, it’s edibility. You can also use fall leaves, branch and twig cuttings, pinecones, berries on the stem, and the like. It’s rustic, it’s compostable, it’s very possibly FREE, and in the spirit of the season. Maybe you even saved some of those gourds and pumpkins from Halloween…plunk them in a pretty bowl, line them up on the mantel, or place them on the porch. Heck, set them in the fireplace with candles and make a sweet substitute for a fire (especially advised if you live in not so chilly parts of the country, yet find yourself with a fireplace). I like this:

thanksgiving fireplace

Why? It’s cheaper than fake decorations made of plastic or styrofoam or the like. It also had a much smaller environmental impact in its creation since nature made it with sunlight, soil, and water. It better represents the true spirit of the harvest celebration that gave origins to the holiday. It’s totally compostable, as long as you don’t paint your natural products with toxic paints or glitter, and you can potentially grow your own pumpkins/gourds next year! And let’s face it…it’s sooooooo super easy. I am so about the least amount of stress!

4.  If you have to use disposable plates or cups (heaven forbid!), for goodness sake, use paper-based or otherwise compostable products.

Why?  It’s compostable, way less toxic than the chemicals used to make plastic and styrofoam, and it keeps those non-compostable products out of the environment and out of the landfill.  Even paper products have a pretty nasty chemical trail, but there are reasonable, non-bleached products out there that have less of an impact than plastics and foam-based products.  You can also find some corn-based “plastics” that are compostable and perfect for one time usage.  Regular plates and glasses/cups are preferable, of course, because you can just wash them and be done with it.  But I get it…you might not have enough place settings for ALL of your guests…it makes sense for such an occasional situation to have a temporary solution.

5.  And finally, go organic!  If you can get organic ingredients, do it.

Why?  Organic ingredients are often fresher, though possibly superficially flawed.  Don’t let a few spots deter you from that organic apple…you’re probably going to peel them anyway for that pie, right?  Organic ingredients also lack potential toxic chemicals that some non-organic foods may contain.  The fewer toxins you consume, the healthier you will be in the long run.  And the fewer toxins used in growing the food, the healthier the environment will be.  Also…and maybe this is just some kind of placebo effect…I think organic foods taste better.  YUM!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone…I hope you find other ways to be green this holiday!

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The Halloween Aftermath!

Here we are, again…Holiday Season!

Happy All Saints Day, everybody! Or Dia de los Muertos for my Mexican friends.
sugar skull fabric

Since it is already the day after Halloween, I’ll forgo the helpful non-plastic, non-toxic recommendations for décor and makeup and head straight for the aftermath most of you will find yourself facing from behind a pile of candy wrappers and discarded costumes…

The best way to be green NOW is to reuse any decorations that can be safely stored away for next year…might as well save the money by recycling those plastic spiders and disembodied hands and orange/black/glow-in-the-dark “garland” strands, too. If you had a jack-o-lantern, go ahead and keep it on display as “harvest art” until it gets too gross to leave on your porch or starts attracting flies. Here in Texas, jack-o-lanterns don’t have very long shelf lives since it’s pretty warm, still, but northern states… what with your seasonally cooler weather (I’m only a wee bit jealous)… can have a cut pumpkin that stays pretty “fresh” for a few weeks. Whenever you are ready to say goodbye to Mr. Jack, go ahead and send him to your compost pile so he can return from whence he came and become fertilizer for your spring garden.

If you didn’t do it this year, save those pumpkin seeds when you carve your pumpkins and roast them in the oven for some tasty, healthy snacks.

Also, something to consider next year is choosing as many “harvest-themed” Halloween decorations so they can last longer and be on display right up until Thanksgiving. It’s easy, right? Think gourds, pumpkins, corn stalks, hay bales, etc. You can still go down a fright-themed path by making a scarecrow, other “people” made from clothes stuffed with hay, ghosts from fabric which can be washed and saved again for next year (or even sheets/tablecloths/towels that go back to being sheets/tablecloths/towels), and creatively painted/stacked haybales to make giant spiders, tunnels, or mazes.

When these things are ready to be replaced by Christmas decorations, they can all be composted or otherwise used without finding their way into a landfill or negatively impacting the environment at large.

Many gourds and dried corn can last in storage for years, as long as they are fully dried and kept dry when they are stored. It is probably best to use a plastic storage bin for such things, to avoid attracting mice that might sniff out a delicious harvest treat if they are stored in a cardboard box. I know, I know, I normally don’t recommend plastic, but storage bins are something that can last for a very, very long time—I have some that must be over 15 years old and won’t have to be replaced any time soon as far as I can tell. I also have a wreath with multi-colored dried corn on it that has stayed presentable for about 10 years…not a single mouse nibble!

Depending on your hay source and your yard or garden conditions, some people use hay as a way to protect bare spots from the erosion of winter rains, to act as an insulator/water gatherer for fallow garden plots (much in the way of mulch), or even as a means to get grass growing instead of just sowing grass seed. In the case of growing grass, you will end up growing whatever kind of grass the hay was before it was cut (obvious, right?) so…if you don’t know what kind of hay you have or where it came from, you might want to forgo this usage if you care about having a nice, weed-free lawn. I don’t, personally, but some people do…just be warned.

I could tell you all about the artificial colors and preservatives in your Halloween candy and how awful they are for you and your kids, but…I bet you kind of already know candy’s not the best thing to eat, and I bet you also know that a short-term intake of such things probably won’t do a lot of damage in the long run.

So. No Halloween Scrooge today. Maybe in a few days after that picked-over bowl of candy’s not looking so tempting anymore. Until then…I will be noshing on a few Reese’s cups, myself. YUM!

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Plastic-Bag Free?! Can it Be?

I have a personal vendetta against plastic bags.  Mainly because of their overuse.  I am flabbergasted when I go…say…to a convenience store and I buy…something like…a pack of gum, and the sales clerk automatically offers me a bag.  “For a pack of gum?” I will say, all incredulous-like.  And sometimes they laugh and say “oh, I just ask everyone that,” but sometimes they are dead tired of jerky people, and they just look past me to the next person in line.  This isn’t super-common in Austin, TX, but it is still possible.

I am even more flabbergasted when I go to a grocery store and buy approximately 50 items.  I will get home with anywhere from 8 to 20 (yes! 20! I have counted!) plastic grocery bags.  That’s anywhere from 2.5 – 6.25 items per bag.  I have tried to give instructions to the baggers like, “Please fill the bags up as full as they will go” in an effort to up the number of items per bag…I’m thinking it should be more like 12 to 15.  Then guess what they do when I’m not looking?  DOUBLE BAG THE BAGS!  WHAAAAAT?!  And then I have to stomp over to the recyling bin out front and un-double bag my groceries and place the superfluous bags directly into the recycling bin.  Okay, maybe I’m not really that dramatic about it, but I do get pretty miffed.

But what probably makes me more angry than double bagging the bags is when they put my milk jugs or laudry detergent into a plastic bag.  All by itself.  “IT HAS A HANDLE! IT DOESN’T NEED A BAG!” I want to scream.

But I don’t.  I DO sometimes try to bag my own groceries to prevent all this mess, so that works out pretty well.

And, yes, I know what you are thinking.  OF COURSE I should have been using reusable bags all along.  I mean, here I am purporting to be the Southern Girl who has Gone Green, right?  Well, I am no queen of green yet.  I am often harried like a lot of other people, leaving the reusable bags I have purchased en masse either at home or in the car.   I have thought about sprinting back to the car to get the bags, but I just don’t think that’s right when there are people waiting in line behind me.  I have bought new reusables when paper was not available, or opted for paper when the reusable display is too far from the cashier.  I have also, taken my groceries to the car without any bags and loaded them into the trunk all loose and naked.  What?  There’s nothing wrong with naked groceries!

BUT.  I am getting better because my dear city, Austin, TX, has declared that stores must no longer offer single-use plastic bags.  This local ruling of plastic bag limitation has caused a vast number of people to now bring bags with them.  Paper bags are largely available, as well, which were the ONLY grocery bags available when I was a kid.  Of course there is something of a learning curve for the baggers to achieve the paper bag packing method that will get the most groceries in the bag, yet stacked in such a way that the bag can be easily carried in your arms.

The fact is though, that there are still plastic bags, they are just supposed to be for “multiple” uses.  Also, restaurants may still offer them for take out, ice is still sold in plastic, and I’ve noticed that certain non-grocery retail stores are still offering them (I’m looking at you, Michaels).

I will confess that I am still using plastic bags myself.  I had a mountain of a recycling stash when the ban went into effect.  I had every intention of just stuffing them all in one of those store-front recycling bins, but I thought it would be a better conservation practice to use these bags as many times as I could before ridding myself of them.  So, I now permanently store portions of the stash in my trunk.  I grab about 10 on the way into the store, I try to make sure what I buy will fit in 10 bags, and I certainly make sure they are stuffed to the gills before they are considered “full” by the bagger.

Austin is not alone in this bag ban trend–several cities across the country–nay! across the world!–have banned the blight of plastic bags.  Several cities have tried to pass the ban, but they have been voted down, for whatever reason–mainly because businesses claim it is “bad for business.”  But this just cannot be true.  Get paper.  Sell re-usables.  How hard is that?  And how is that detrimental to business?  The only business it might be bad for is the plastic-bag makers.  They could easily transition to making something more durable and reusable, but honestly–the amount of petroleum that goes into something meant to be disposable is just criminal.

So, whether you live in a city with a ban or not, make the change in your shopping habits by adding reusables to your routine.  Or ask for paper.  Or hell, let your groceries run wild and free and naked in your trunk!  Do it.

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Go Green(er) This Month…It’s only 28 Days!

Holy moly, am I behind on this one!

My sincerest of apologies on this ever-so-tardy update to “Southern Girl Goes Green.”  The end of 2012 really threw me for a loop, it seems.  So, now, a whole month into 2013 and I am just now getting to making resolutions.  There is nothing wrong with taking your time, I say.  Right?

So, as I am considering what I want to try, what I want to do, and what I want to change, it occurs to me that February might just be the perfect month for starting a 28-day challenge.  I know, I know…it can be daunting to keep up with things on a daily basis, but hey, there is no harm in setting goals and reaching for them, even if you falter.  At least, you tried!  And so, these are what I am thinking about for the coming month:

  • How to be a Greener Cleaner using greener, more natural cleaning products, providing recipes for products you can make yourself, as well as some new reviews on products you can find at a store near you.
  • How to be a Greener Eater with vegetarian and vegan recipes, gardening, and exploring local and organic products.
  • How to be a Greener Partier including great ideas about decor, hosting, and gifts.
  • How to be a Precycler, discussing the notion of packaging, preventing waste, making things last longer, and homemade solutions.

It seems so exciting, I know, so tune in this month to see what’s brewing in this green mind of mine!  It’s going to be so much fun!

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WHAT? Only 7 Shopping Days Left?!

AAAAAAHHHHHH!  How did this happen?!  Time is flying!

All the more reason to make living greener a priority now.

My whole blog started a year and a month ago, because I watched “Bag It,” the documentary.  And I started learning about all the harmful chemicals we have around us, not only in toys and products and all things plastic, but everywhere.  It takes a real commitment and continued vigilence to start living a cleaner, greener life.  But it doesn’t have to be hard.  That’s the part where I think a lot of people get overwhelmed.  I think blogs like mine and stores you should have near you (and yes, online stores, if you are more rurally-located) are making it much easier to live healthier, less polluted lives.

So…with 7 days left until Christmas, I am going to point  you in some directions for last minute shopping, if you haven’t already found them yourselves.

1. Sprouts/Whole Foods/Central Market – These grocery stores have a wide range of all kinds of products that are suitable for stocking stuffers and gift baskets.  Each of these stores have quite the treasure trove of natural/healthy personal care products in all sizes and for all purposes.  Even a gift card for one of these stores could be a most excellent gift!

2. Target/Walmart – I KNOW most of you are close to one of these stores.  If you are looking for personal care products that might be nice for gifts, I have had luck finding Burt’s Bees products in most Walmarts.  They also usually have “Yes to” products.  These are normally in the cosmetics aisle, not where shampoo or lotion are.  Depending on your store, they may have much, much more to choose from–this seems to be especially true for Target.  Not only do they have Burt’s Bees and “Yes to” goodies, they may also have Shea Moisture (a luxurious line of bath and hair products), Dr. Bronner’s liquid soaps (Peppermint is a nice wintery zing!), natural candles by Mrs. Meyer (in Iowa Pine!) and Beeluxe (Mandarin Clove is a awesome seasonal scent), and I even found some Caldrea products (on sale, no less!).  Take a tool around the aisles and see what you find!

3. Your Local Department Store – Okay, so call me crazy, but TRY IT.  You might be surprised.  There are a few premium brands that are healthy and you never know what your store might carry during the holidays.  It seems like Origins might be your best bet for a higher end product line that “are formulated with natural and certified organic ingredients and 100% natural essential oils.  And formulated without parabens, phthalates, propylene glycol, mineral oil, PABA, petrolatum, paraffin, DEA and animal ingredients.  We manufacture using a combination of renewable resources, wind energy, and earth-friendly practices.”  They have lots of great gift sets that are probably perfect for someone on your list.  Maybe yourself? (I totally bought myself a gift box of this stuff on Black Friday…shhhh…don’t tell).

4. Sephora/Drugstore.com/iHerb.com – All of these places have a bevy of products with a lot of information about ingredients (usually in separate tabs on the product pages).  You can get reviews at these places, too, to see if you really want to get something.  If you are going to buy something here, though, you better do it asap because they do have to ship it to get it there before C-Day.  Sephora is probably the best bet for sussing out perfumes and specific products within a brand line (like Philosophy) that are better than others.  Drugstore.com has really huge variety of things, especially things that are hard to find in a store.  iHerb.com has more “regular” products, but you can find some items at super awesome prices.  Give ’em a whirl…but do it today!

5. Amazon – Same thing goes with Amazon for the shipping, but this is (as most of us know), the new general store of the world.  Because individual vendors can post their own products, you really can find almost anything.  I was looking for more BeeLuxe products, and that’s where you can find them.  Of course you can also get books and media and other things…where Amazon started it all.  Look up some books about natural products and/or how to make your own products for the craftier folks on your list…everyone likes new know-how and recipes (at least I do).

6. Pinterest – Okay, so maybe you have some time to do some last minute creations…go perusing for ideas here!  I think I just might go find some of the more excellent recipes, print them out on some nice paper, create a little box or book of them, and use this for a stocking stuffer for some of the cooks/bakers in my life.  It doesn’t have to be super elaborate…maybe even write a few recipes out by hand and tie them with a ribbon.  Or, heck, make some of those marvelous creations and take them with you to the office party or give out samplers to your friends in lieu of “stuff.”  Your only limitation at this point is time!

7.  Etsy.com – Again, time/shipping is of the essence, but this website is the website of crafters the whole world wide.  You can buy anything from art to  jewelry to homemade soaps or purses or shirts or even vintage items…just anything really at this site.  Individual crafters/collectors have their own pages, so you will be paying them and they will be shipping the items. HOWEVER, there is a “search by” feature that can limit your options to a zip code or town.  I can’t guarantee that a seller would be willing to have you come over to their home, but you can communicate directly with people via a messaging system (if you create an account)…you could probably work out some sort of “pick-up” method.  This way you can get something super-special and unique from a local crafts person AND avoid the shipping (thereby reducing your carbon footprint).  You might even make a new friend or become a loyal customer if you find the right craftsperson.  You never know until you look.

I hope this gives you some ideas at the very least…GOOD LUCK, Last Minute Shoppers!  Go get ’em!

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Only 19 Days ‘Til Christmas! Stocking Stuffers!

I *hope* you have already begun to use more natural products for yourself.  But maybe you are having a hard time convincing others to follow suit.  It can be hard to let go of favorite products and to venture out into the world of reading labels and knowing what to avoid.

So, an easy way to get some people to just *try* something new is to give them a collection of samples or maybe just fill their stockings to the brim with travel-size products.  If the product is a good one, they may just seek it out for that reason, not BECAUSE it’s good for them, just because it’s GOOD!

Try some of these:

Burt’s Bees has some easy to find, inexpensive, and varied sample-size collections.  You can find one for everyone on your list from babies and new moms to teenagers and dads.  If you can’t seem to find one in a store local to you, try their website.  If you go to “Gifts,” you will find “Gift Sets” and also “Travel & Trial,” where there are 21 different products you can buy individually to create your own little sampler.  Fun!

Aubrey Organics has a variety of pre-packaged travel sets for right around $10, which will give someone a good amount to sample.  They have six different collections to address different skin types and conditions.  They also have natural lip balms and 2oz. sizes of some products like the Natural Baby line. 

South of France Soaps is a new and surprising find for me…from their webpage, it says: 

The luxurious South of France® soap is kettle cooked in small batches using a traditional Marseille recipe with all natural vegetable ingredients. Each fragrance is chosen specifically for its cleansing and calming qualities. All South of France® soaps, lotions and body wash are free of sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate, EDTA, paraben and phthalates and never tested on animals. As a result of its superior quality and fragrances, South of France has quickly become one of the best selling natural bar soap brands in the United States.

Many of the soaps also indicate they are soy free, gluten free, and vegan.  You can find this soap in various on-line stores, which will probably afford you the best prices.  I found it at World Market on sale 2 for 1.  At $5.99, regularly priced, it is kind of expensive, but the fragrances are really wonderful and the 8 oz. bar seems to be lasting a long time.  They do have a half-size bar that comes in a 2-pack if you can find it, which might make a better stocking stuffer.  But I’d be happy with a big ol’ bar of good smelling soap in my stocking!  With fragrances like Lavender and Tea Tree Sandalwood, even the men in your life will enjoy it. 

And to stick with the idea of soap bars, if you want to try a shampoo bar, look for J.R. Liggett brand.  You can find sample sizes easily online and they even come in a variety of scents…Peppermint is even a seasonal scent that is available!  These are made by hand in small batches with all natural ingredients.  Mr. Liggett, himself, indicates that you don’t even need conditioner with his shampoo bar.  Might try it myself!

Jojoba & Peppermint 3.5 oz.

And a new/old perfumer that is bringing some wholly natural and “mostly” natural options is Demeter.  They have a new line of fragrances called Demeter Naturals, but per their FAQs on their website:  “Demeter Naturals fragrances are completely natural. And while some Demeter Classic fragrances are all natural, we do use some synthetic ingredients in most Classic fragrances. Generally speaking, the ingredients in our fragrances are at least 95% derived from natural and sustainable sources, and we use no artificial color or Phthalates or parabens.”  They also conduct no animal testing.  The full size Demeter Natural fragrances (1.7 oz) go for about $30 online, but you can probably find them for less in stores or on sale.  They also have purse-size 0.5 oz sprays that might be better for stockings.  The Vetiver and Mimosa fragrances have gotten pretty good reviews.

So, these are just five ideas, but I hope they lead you to giving your family and friends the gift of healthier and more natural living this year!

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