Sunday, June 29, 2008

DIY EcoCandles

I had to share this video I came across for making your own candles. I haven't tried this yet, but after learning the health impacts and air quality concerns of burning petroleum based (paraffin) candles - I'm ready to ditch my old candles and try something new. If I get around to making some myself I will be sure to post a picture!

Waste-Free Lunches

Now that I'm eating clean and going green, I've become more conscientious of what is going into my "lunch box" each day. Not only am I more concerned about the nutritional content of my food, but of the amount of packaging as well (it's all because of the domino effect).

Just six months ago a packed lunch and snacks for me would be something like this,
  • Lean Cuisine or leftovers in a plastic #7 container
  • plastic baggy of baby carrots
  • plastic baggy of grapes
  • flavored yogurt in single cup packaging
  • granola bar
  • plastic fork (for the times I forgot to bring a stainless steel one)
  • paper napkin
I can't believe I mindlessly produced this much waste! Not to mention the processed food packed with ingredients I can't recognize or pronounce... My lunch box, or rather my cooler (carrying 3-4 meals is more than just lunch) has completely transformed over the last few months. I now bring meals/leftovers to be heated in glass containers vs. plastic #7 polycarbonate containers that contain BPA. I pack veggies, fruit, and homemade trail mix in #5 plastic (BPA-free) containers vs. disposable plastic baggies. I also keep a set of flatware in my desk at work, and take a cloth napkin (kitchen washcloths work great too) that can be used a few times before bringing back home to be washed. My husband is doing all this too.

We also make a point not to buy single serving packaged foods. We buy in bulk and then pack them for our coolers in reusable containers to reduce the amount of packaging and waste. These simple changes in the way we pack our "lunch boxes" are easy to make, and have great benefits. We are greatly reducing our consumer waste, and by not eating pre-packaged processed foods we are eating healthier, more nutritious meals! It may not seem like waste-free lunches would make such an impact, until you look at the big picture... The next time you pack your lunch, or lunch for your kids, think about how many people bring lunch to your work, and how many kids bring lunch to school every day... Chew on this from,
"It has been estimated that on average a school-age child using a disposable lunch generates 67 pounds of waste per school year. That equates to 18,760 pounds of lunch waste for just one average-size elementary school."
Packing a waste-free lunch is also more economical. The cost of all those disposable items add up! For more information and number crunching check out Also, Laptop Lunches has great ideas for reusable lunch box containers. 

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Glitch = Goodies

A few days after I blogged about renewable energy, I received another newsletter email from Green Mountain Energy with my updated CO2 offset numbers... the numbers were drastically different, and lower, than my last report showed (from February)! I emailed the company with the offset numbers from the previous newsletter and asked why the numbers were so different. I heard back from them the very next morning. Tony, a manager apologized for the confusion and let me know that my question/concern was passed along to the environmental department. A couple of hours later I was contacted again by the same manager, letting me know their analyst was out of town and wouldn't be back until early the next (this) week. I replied that I wasn't in a hurry to get the numbers, I just wanted to know. I heard back from them on Tuesday with new updated offset numbers (that closely matched the ones from February), and verification that I was on the 100% wind energy plan. However, my trees planted number was off. Apparently I pointed out a glitch in the system that they are now looking into and trying to fix. Here are my new updated numbers:
  • Pounds of CO2 avoided = 84,651
  • Trees planted = 5,084
  • Miles not driven = 94,057
I have to say, I'm impressed with Green Mountain Energy. I heard back from them promptly, and the manager was friendly and professional. I was thanked multiple times for supporting their company and using renewable energy. Also, they sent me the goodies pictured above along with a thank you card. I was even asked what type of shirt I wanted, and was sent a ladies cut shirt that actually fits! I will be wearing my shirt... after this experience I'm an even bigger supporter of the company.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Power by the KW Hour

My husband has a new toy... a Kill a Watt Electricity Usage Monitor. He is gleefully testing every appliance and gadget in the house to get an idea of how much energy our stuff uses - while active and in standby. We're hoping to determine how much phantom energy our house uses and eliminate the vampires. He's collecting all this information in a spreadsheet to crunch the numbers (maybe I can get him to do a guest blog about the results).

If you're curious, the picture is of the monitor after our little "beer fridge" was plugged in - 22 hours and 12 minutes later it used a total of 0.47 KWH.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

"How To" Produce Wash

It's no secret that the produce brought home from grocery stores are loaded with pesticides. Even organic produce have some pesticides. Veggies and fruit should be washed before eating, and sadly scrubbing them with water doesn't cut it. Here's a list of the most and least contaminated produce,
You can buy produce washes at grocery stores, but a much cheaper and likely safer option is to make your own. Plus, you can reuse the same plastic spray bottle for your homemade produce wash rather than buying a new one each time. Below is a recipe (also see video) from Sophie Uliano, the author of Gorgeously Green.

Produce Wash:
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp baking soda
  • 3-4 drops of grapefruit seed extract

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Row Boat

Want to live vicariously through someone on an adventure? Roz Savage used to work in a cube farm, until one day she decided to row a boat - alone - across oceans! In 2005-6 she crossed the Atlantic Ocean, becoming the first woman to cross it alone. Right now she is on day number 24 of rowing across the Pacific Ocean, and is blogging daily to share the experience. She is also using MarineTrack to track her location which you can view real time on her blog (pretty cool). Her voyage will be in 3 stages over the next 3 years rowing from San Francisco to Australia for a total distance of 7,600 miles!

Roz rows to raise awareness of environmental issues. Her row is a project for a US based nonprofit Blue Frontier Campaign, and she is also an ambassador for the UK based charity called The BLUE Project. Check them out and make a BLUE pledge (another Ocean Day event I missed)!

I've added Roz's blog to my blog list on this page. This summer I will be following her journey across the Pacific as well as JUNK sailing from California to Hawaii while I'm spending my days in a cube farm... day dreaming of being on the open sea.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Eat Clean

I keep getting asked about what "diet" I'm following and what exactly eating clean is all about... Well, here is a short video of Tosca Reno, the author, explaining it herself!

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Premiering tomorrow night (Sunday) on Planet Green is a docu-series called Greensburg. This series tells the story of how Greensburg, Kansas was destroyed by an EF5 tornado on May 4, 2007, and how they are rebuilding their entire community green. I've been waiting for this series to begin since I first saw the trailer a couple of months ago. You can view the trailer for the docu-series here.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Battle of Detergents

In our effort to rid our household of toxins, and use cleaners gentle on the Earth, we have started experimenting with more eco-friendly products. My first lesson was that just because a product says it's Earth friendly, doesn't always mean much. Consumers need to read the labels, learn the ingredients, and follow the printed instructions... but I'll save that rant for another post. Moving on to the comparison... The battle of the green automatic dishwasher detergents - Seventh Generation vs. Shaklee's Get Clean (as shown in the picture, click to enlarge). Just by looking at the packaging I'm more impressed with Get Clean because it is a refillable plastic container. The concentrated detergent is sold in a separate plastic pouch (ugh plastic), but in the end it's less packaging.

We first tried Seventh Generation (SG) Automatic Dishwashing Gel because it is a highly praised brand for being green, and it was available at our grocery store. We followed the directions closely, and experimented with various amounts of detergent by filling the dishwasher's detergent holder 1/2 full, then completely full, then 1/3 full, then 1/4 full. The results each time were disappointing and unacceptable. Even though we pre-rinsed and scrubbed all the dishes, they would come out of the dishwasher DIRTY, with little remains of food on them, and a film of detergent. Each time we ended up having to wash them by hand, or rewash the entire load... I felt like what was the point of using a green detergent if you have to waste so much water to get the job done?! In the defense of SG, I do think it may have to do with our water... I read several reviews from people who swore the product worked well. We have hard water, this may work better for people with softer water.

The second product we've tried is Shaklee Get Clean Dish Wash Automatic Concentrate. I first heard of this brand when Dr. Oz raved about it on Oprah (yeah, yeah), then I stumbled across it on the internet around Earth Day. It has to be ordered from a distributor (which I'm considering becoming one) and seems expensive, however all their products are highly concentrated so they last a long time (H2 seemingly forever), and the packaging is much less because you add the water. In the end the cost balances out and is comparable. OK, so to get back to the comparison... The instructions call for 2 scoops (it comes with a tiny scoop that holds less than 1 Tbsp), but 4 scoops for hard water. For the first load I tried 3 scoops. I was a little nervous that we would find dirty dishes again, but no, the dishes came out squeaky clean!! We were very impressed. The next load we used the recommended 2 scoops, and again they came out shiny and clean!

Now lets compare the ingredients. Both brands have no chlorine or phosphates (which are harmful to the environment) and are made of biodegradable ingredients. Here's the details taken right from the labels:
  • Seventh Generation Automatic Dishwashing Gel
    • Ingredients: Cleaning agents (non-toxic acrylic polymers and alkoxylated linear alcohol, a biodegradable, low sudsing surfactant for cleaning, dispersant action, and water spot prevention), Water softeners for enhanced performance (soda ash and sodium citrate), Dishwasher and china protection agent (sodium silicate), Viscosity control agent (xanthan gum), Fragrance (lemon), Preservative (less than 0.05%). [whew that is one wordy ingredient list]
    • CAUTION: Keep out of reach of children. In case of eye contact, flush with water for at least 15 minutes. If swallowed, drink a glassful of water.
  • Shaklee Get Clean Dish Wash Automatic Concentrate -
    • Patented phosphate-free formula (meaning not all ingredients are disclosed). Power enzyme-activated cleaner removes tough stains, leaving dishes and glasses sparkling clean.
    • CAUTION: Concentrate causes eye and skin irritation. Avoid eye and prolonged skin contact. Wash thoroughly after handling. Harmful if swallowed. Do not taste or swallow. Contains sodium percarbonate and sodium carbonate (also known as washing soda or soda ash). FIRST AID: EYES: Flush eyes with water for 10-15 minutes. If irritation persists, contact a physician. SKIN: Rinse with plenty of water. IF SWALLOWED: Give a cupful of water or milk and immediately call poison center or physician. Keep out of reach of children.
In conclusion - though the Seventh Generation detergent is non-toxic, I'll take the Shaklee Get Clean to have squeaky clean dishes and be careful to keep it out of the hands of children!


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Your Intention Creates Your Reality

I am lucky to have a group of girl friends that I chat with almost every day on a group site. We've been chatting for years... discussing just about every topic imaginable, from our personal lives (daily highs and lows, families, health, and careers) to politics and the environment. We all have different perspectives and ways of thinking, but we all appreciate each other's opinions and viewpoints - which makes the discussions so valuable. A couple of days ago, one of my friends shared a quote that I've been thinking about ever since,
"Your intention creates your reality."
The definition of the word intention (noun) from is,
  1. An act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result.
  2. The end or object intended; purpose.
Also listed is the definition according to the American Heritage Dictionary,
  1. A course of action that one intends to follow.
  2. An aim that guides action; an objective.
I googled the quote to find the author and found it along with this -
"The secret to changing your life is in your intentions. Wishing, hoping and goal setting cannot accomplish change without intention. What is needed is a shift from the inert energy of wanting to the active energy of doing and intention. Realize that all of your accomplishments, even those of which you are not so proud, have come about as a result of your intentions. Your relationships are a reflection of what you have created with your intentions. Your financial picture is the result of your intentions. When you know that you're in charge of your intentions, that they originate with you, then you will also come to know that you are in charge of your entire world and always have been."
~ Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
This rings true for me. I have so many intentions (living healthier, being kind to the Earth, strengthening my relationships, etc.), the secret is mentally determining how to get to the end result, and taking action. Just something to ponder... I'd love to hear your comments!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


So what do you get with 15,000 plastic bottles and an old Cessna 310?

A sailboat. Yeah, really. On June 1st, Dr. Marcus Eriksen and Joel Paschal set sail from Southern California aboard JUNK to raise awareness about plastic in the oceans. They are sailing to Hawaii literally on a craft made of junk, with no motor, and they expect it will take ~ 6-7 weeks. You can read more about how the sailboat was constructed and follow their journey on their blog at (also linked under this page's blog list).

Monday, June 09, 2008

Live Like You Love the Ocean

Yesterday, June 8th was World Ocean Day. I'm disappointed that I missed it, and didn't have the opportunity to blog about it on the actual day. Those that know me personally know how much I love the ocean. I love being on the water, or even better underneath SCUBA diving. By nature, I am an observer and love to hover and watch (avoid touching at all costs) marine life in their habitat. I am always fascinated by the behavior of different species and how they interact - this goes with animals on land and water.

A handful of scientists are researching one of several gyres in the ocean called the "ever expanding" Great Pacific Garbage Patch (more like a bowl of plastic soup, reported to be twice the size of Texas or larger). Here they have found six pounds of plastic for every pound of algae. Considering that the ocean determines our food, and our climate... this is devastating. According to the U.S. Commission of Ocean Policy, 80% of plastic in the ocean is not from ships but from land. The improper disposal of consumer waste eventually travels from beaches and rivers to the ocean... to be pulled by currents and accumulate in ocean gyres. So... what can we do? I think Wallace J. Nichols, a senior scientist at the Ocean Conservatory said it best - "live like you love the ocean." Simply put less in, take less out, and protect the edge.

To commemorate World Ocean Day, people were challenged to make June 8th a day without plastic. I'm glad to say that without even realizing that it was WOD - I did it... I used my Klean Kanteen water bottle, my new reusable cotton produce bags (see my previous post), and my totes. Even though World Ocean Day for 2008 has passed, I challenge you to make your own "day without plastic" day. Then tell me about it!

For a list of articles about the impacts of plastic in our lakes and oceans click here. The article that brought the significance of this issue to my awareness is called Plastic Ocean, by Susan Casey.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


Tonight we went grocery shopping... Number of plastic bags we brought home? ZERO. Whooohoo! We used our new reusable cotton produce bags for the first time, and they worked great. The cashier was able to read the produce numbers through the cotton, and he didn't seem flustered by it.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

NASA's 50th Anniversary

NASA is celebrating their 50th anniversary this year by sharing mission film footage (now in HD) collected over the past 50 years. The 6 part series, called When We Left Earth will be aired in 2 hour increments over the next 3 Sundays, beginning tomorrow June 8th. This article discusses how the film was brought out of storage and restored to make the series.

Check out the trailer for the series, it gave me goose bumps!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Where does your energy come from?

Or maybe I should rephrase the title to say - do you know what kind of energy you're paying for? I DO! I'm proud to say that for the last 6 years I have been a customer of Green Mountain Energy, where the energy I (now we) purchase comes from wind energy sources. I wish I could say that the energy our house uses comes directly from the wind source, but that's not how it works. The clean energy we purchase is added to our region's power grid, displacing the equivalent amount of power coming from more polluting and nonrenewable sources like oil, natural gas, and coal.

My bill from Green Mountain Energy is one bill that I actually READ. Though it can be painful to read in the summer (when it's more expensive because of running the air conditioning more often), every month it tells me how much CO2 emissions (pollution) we've offset by choosing clean energy. My household's totals for the past 6 years are :
  • Pounds of CO2 avoided = 80,270
  • Trees planted = 5,460
  • Miles not driven = 86,414
How incredible is that?! I have to say it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside knowing that in some small way, I have made a difference. Green Mountain used to only be available to a handful of states, but I just checked so that I could list them here, and now they are available nation wide! To read more about Green Mountain Energy's commitment to the environment, and how they are walking the talk click here.

Another great source of information is the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Green Power Network. Check it out!

Commercial for Planet Green cracks me up!

Tommy Lee and Ludacris have it out over being green.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Planet Green Network launches TODAY!

The Planet Green Network is launching today, replacing the Discovery Health channel (UPDATE - Planet Green is a new channel, not replacing DHealth, 286/GRN on DirecTV). I love how the trend of going green has reached the point of demanding a TV channel offering 24/7 programming dedicated to being GREEN. I'm so excited for this channel, as I was able to see a few sneak peaks of the programs that were shown on sister networks. Details of the TV shows that will be aired on Planet Green can be found on their website which I listed in the helpful links section of this blog, or click here to see the list.

The shows I'm looking forward to most, and plan to set my TiVo to record (TiVo is by far my favorite gadget) are Greensburg and Greenovate. But there are several shows I'm interested in watching... and what better timing than during the summer when all the other shows are reruns?!

Check it out, let me know what you think, and if you find a new favorite show.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Bag the Bag

The one small change that everyone can make to help the environment is to stop using plastic bags. We are finally into the habit of taking tote bags to stores... and really, I have no idea why we didn't start doing this YEARS ago! The totes carry 3-4 times as much as 1 plastic bag which means we only have to take 1 (sometimes 2) trips from the car to the kitchen! It rocks. Plus, we don't have a huge bag of saved plastic bags taking over our pantry anymore.

I just ordered some reusable produce bags that I recently discovered. They are super light weight cotton that can be washed and reused for produce, bulk grains, and nuts. Since they are cheaper the more you buy I asked around and ordered some for my friends too. I'm so excited because we finally don't have plastic store bags coming into the house anymore (we're getting better at actually remembering to use our totes), and NOW we have a solution for all the crappy thin plastic produce bags. I can't wait to start using them!

Check out this video hosted by Edward Norton.

Need some more convincing? Take a look at the facts here. Seriously, no more excuses... bag the bag. Thankfully, many stores sell their own reusable bags now. Here are some links for where you can find reusable bags online: (super cute but pricey)

I can go on and on about the impact plastic has to our planet, and our own health... but I will save that for another post!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Go for Bulk

I love the look of classic glass jars filled with spices and grains. I have admired a friend mine's drawer full of spices in little labeled containers for the longest time (3 years!), and intended to make a spice drawer of my own. Well I finally found jars that I like and decided to actually get the project done. I purchased spice jars as well as a range of other sized jars, and put my label maker to use! I'm so excited! I can now buy spices in bulk and not have to buy containers each time and waste all the packaging - and it's literally pennies for the amount of spices you get in one of those jars that you buy for $2-3. We've had a spice drawer for a while but it was stuffed with those McCormick bottles that had to lie on their sides. Now my spice jars are easy to read and get to, no searching and picking through the drawer! Here's a picture of my finished project (click to enlarge).

Now that we've gone all natural with our foods, I also purchased a bunch of glass containers to hold all our grains (labeled of course, I heart my label maker!) - rolled oats, steel cut oats, cream of wheat, whole wheat couscous, brown rice, raw nuts, etc.. We have containers of pasta (whole grain of course) on our counter top, and then the rest in the pantry. I imagine having them all lined up on shelf in our dream kitchen.

Buy in bulk to save money and the environment!