5 Easy Steps to Reduce Plastic in Our Lives

by Tiffany in A Green Home

1. Avoid plastic bags at the grocery store. This applies to the bags you get at checkout AND the plastic produce bags you put your loose fruits and veggies in. There are two really easy, really affordable products you can use instead of plastic so there is very little excuse to keep bringing plastic baggies home.

Reusable Grocery Bags – Cloth bags can be bought at most grocery stores for $1 nowadays and you can usually find good quality bags for $10 each that will last for years and years AND can be used for other things. My favorite reusable bag is the ACME Earth Tote from my fave online store, Reuseit. It is large enough for groceries, has pockets, and I use it as my weekend bag for trips to my parents house. During the summer we used it to tote towels and toys for the water park. LOVE this bag!

Produce Bags – When you want to load up on apples, celery, fresh greens, carrots, bok choy, wild mushrooms, etc. skip the plastic produce bags the store provides. You can bring your own mesh or muslin bags. They are super light weight and much better for the planet than plastic. The muslin bags even work for beans and grains.

These are some of my fave bags from my collection of produce bags: These are all from EcoBags.

Cloth Produce Bags

2. Use glass food storage dishes. You can buy plastic so cheap that it seems that is what most people do nowadays. They buy a box of 15 plastic dishes to store leftovers and lunches in and never consider the environmental or health implications. For the price of that one bulk box you could buy one or two really nice glass refrigerator dishes and just wash them more often. You can also find vintage glass and Pyrex refrigerator dishes at yard sales and thrift stores. I found a yummy green Pyrex dish for $3 just last fall! I also buy mason jars from thrift stores and use those:

Bananas in Jar

Check out my Squidoo lens on BPA, PVC and Phthalate Free Food Storage. It has a big list of glass and stainless steel food and liquid storage containers.

3. Instead of prepackaged foods wrapped in plastic buy loose or fresh foods. Mushrooms can be bought in foam containers wrapped in plastic and they can be bought loose and taken home in a produce bag. The same is true of greens, veggies, and many fruits. It might be slightly more work and expense to buy all the salad ingredients separate instead of salad in a bag… but the health and environmental benefits are worth it. Instead of buying your milk in a carton or jug (which are both made with plastic) see if you can find a way to buy in glass jars, perhaps direct from the local dairy farm. You could also switch to homemade almond milk, which is healthier anyway. Instead of buying yogurt cups you could start making your own, it’s actually pretty easy. I grew up eating homemade yogurt. Yum!

4. Make your own cleaners. Instead of buying plastic bottles of cleaners (even greener cleaners, make your own from natural ingredients and reuse those plastic bottles instead of buying new. You can even label them so you know exactly what is in them. Laundry soap (both dry and liquid, all purpose cleaner, carpet cleaner, scrubbing cleaner, all of it can be made at home sustainably and affordably. Check out Make Your Place: Affordable & Sustainable Nesting Skills. It is an awesome resource.

5. Get in the habit of thinking about every plastic purchase you make. Is the item made of plastic? Is it wrapped in plastic? Will it last? Can I buy it used? Can I recycle it? When you ask these questions you can usually find a non-plastic alternative, a used alternative, or you may decide not to buy it at all. When we don’t ask these critical questions we never stop to really think about how our purchases decisions really impact the world around us.

The only way we will wean ourselves form plastic dependency is to take baby steps and ask the tough questions.

How are you doing on reducing your plastic consumption? Share your tips or stories in the comments!


10 No Low Impact Activities to Enjoy with Your Partner

by Tiffany in Green Holidays

Looking for a Green Way to Say I Love You?

Sometimes it’s tough to come up with new and creative ideas for romance when you don’t want to spend or consume resources.

If you’d like to keep expenses and ecological impact to a minimum there are plenty of ways to have an excellent time without spending much, if anything.

Consider the following ideas:

1. Cuddle. Sometimes when you’re both busy, you may forget how good it feels to cuddle up to each other and relax. It’s a great activity to enjoy when things have been stressful and you just need a calm break. A good cuddle session will do much more for your relationship than a flower basket.

2. Go to the mall. You don’t have to spend money when you go to the mall, although it may be tempting. Walking the mall can be a great way to get out of the house without having to worry about the cold weather.

3. Listen to music. If you and your partner happen to share some musical tastes, you can always enjoy listening to music together. Chances are you can even find some live music at public winter festivals with no entry fee. Or maybe you can ask each other to come up with one or two songs that they would dedicate to you and then listen to them together. Slow dance like you were still in highschool.

4. Play games. Games are a popular choice for people of all tastes and ages. The variety is astounding! You can play a slow paced puzzle game against each other like Scrabble or Dominoes or you can play strategy games like Uno or Hearts. Some of them can really draw you into the action… strip poker anyone?

5. Say I Love You. Challenge each other to find a unique way to say “I love You” in a photo. Spell out I love you with rocks or hold up a sign from on top of a bridge… just find a unique way to say it capture it via a photo to gift to each other. Get them printed out via Flickr for just a few dollars and treasure them forever.

6. Watch a movie. Agree on a genre and then find a good movie to watch together. You may be able to find one on TV or you can rent one for a day for a dollar or two. If you can’t agree on a movie then each of you pick one and watch both.

7. Go out in the snow. Take some time to play in the snow. After all, it’s not something that you can do anytime. Put on your winter gear and go for a walk. You can even bring out your inner child and make snow angels, build a funny snowman, or have a snowball fight.

8. Make a meal together. You can still have a romantic dinner even if you aren’t going out. Choose a nice meal that you can cook together. You’re probably used to either you or your partner cooking. It’ll be a nice change to have the two of you in the kitchen together.

9. Plan a Garden. Spend some deciding where your spring garden will go and what you will plant. Look over catalogs and order seeds. Plant a few flowers that represent love like red tulips, Forget-Me-Nots, and Daisies. You could even call that area the “love” garden and bring the cut flowers indoors in the summer to enjoy together.

10. Volunteer together. Spend a day at a homeless shelter, a food bank, a clean-up site, or some other place that needs volunteers. Working together to better your community and better yourselves is a win-win for everyone.

Just because it’s cold outside or because Valentine’s Day is approaching doesn’t mean that you need to go broke or sit around and be bored. Try some of these activities together and create some new memories!


Is Gaming Healthy for Kids?

by Tiffany in Children


You already know I have a bit of an "attitude" about video games. I used to flat out insist no video games would ever enter my house. Nowadays I am eating my words as my oldest son has accumulated a few consoles, we got a Wii for the family, and my kids play educational games on my computer. We don't spend a lot of time on them… maybe a few hours a week but I am happy with these changes because they have enriched our lives instead of detracted from them. I am not feeling that same love for TV but I have loosened up on the games even though I would say I have/had good reason to feel the way I did. I have a family member who is addicted to gaming. It can be just as bad as someone addicted to alcohol or gambling. When someone in your life can spend 40+ hours a week (as in ALL their free time, not spent sleeping or working) you begin to despise the object of their addiction.

BUT a couple games have changed my thinking on gaming.. as long as it is kept to a healthy minimum. I guess I am now thinking more about how gaming can be enriching as long as it doesn't replace REAL things like human contact, hobbies and activities. In fact I require that games in our house "encourage" these things, IRL.

Last year my kids started playing Magic Artists Deluxe, Kid Pix, and JumpStart World. The first two are not so much games as they are art programs. My kids REALLY enjoy them because it allows them to create paintings and pictures with all sorts of different tools and techniques… media art. At least two of my kids are very artistic (drawing, painting, sculpting) and I am not. Giving them tools to express their art has been a wonderful thing. Imagine how fun it would be for a child to take a blank piece of paper, color it their favorite color, use 5 different paintbrushes to swirl accent colors around, maybe take a sponge to blend some colors, then paste little hearts and stars all over it, and sprinkle with glitter or chocolate chips. Doing all of this on a computer allows for that wonderful experimentation. They use what they learn via these programs to create art offline too.

The last game is something we played while homeschooling. It encourages reading and math by making it a game.

This year we got the Wii and found a wonderful way to exercise and play active games like bowling and golf right from home. It even got my oldest son interested in running. And yet my kids still spend lots of time outdoors because the Wii only contains their adventurous spirits for a few hours a week. Keeping the Wii stored away when not in use helps with that I think.

The latest game we have been playing is on Facebook… Farmville. It got started when my mother introduced my daughter to the game and set her up a farm on my account, without my knowledge. At first I was not too happy because this was around New Years and I had read the resolutions of several bloggers to abandon Farmville because it was taking up too much of their time. Grown adults were having problems keeping their activity in check!

But all things considered it has been a great thing for my daughter and now my oldest son. They are learning so much about managing a farm, planting things, harvesting, taking care of animals, etc. They are also chatting with and "playing" with family members they don't get to see often, like their Aunts, Uncles, and cousins. It has helped them form personal connections with people, not a disconnection. It has also given them big dreams of gardening this spring and trying this Farmville stuff for real.

So I guess that is it in a nutshell… using media to enhance our lives not just entertain us. It is a tall order in this day and age but it can be done. Is it healthy? Well, that's a stretch. Is it educational? It can be. It is at all bad? No. Its all about turning something that can be lemons, into lemonade.

What are your thoughts about kids and gaming?

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

12 Comments on Is Gaming Healthy for Kids?


Cool Green Product: Kill A Watt EZ

by Tiffany in A Green Home

Kill a Watt

I just ran across this yesterday and I want one! You plug it into an outlet and then plug an appliance or some other electric device into it and it then tells you how much energy is used to run that device. Not only does it tell you how much energy is used but it also allows you to input your price per Kilowatt-hour (as charged by your utility company) and it will then tell you how much it costs to run that device per day, week, month, and year. By using the Kill A Watt EZ you can measure energy draw when devices are in use or when they are not being used but are still plugged in. This might give you incentive to go to the trouble of turning off that power bar to your entertainment center or computer but perhaps not unplug your alarm clock every day if it only costs 11 cents a month to keep plugged in 24/7. It might also be a boon in a home with older kids and teens who think they need their own computer and TVs… the real cost of running these things would be helpful to know.

I only wish it was compatible with 220V plugs because I would love to test my dryer and hot water heater.


What is The Paleo Diet?

by Tiffany in Healthy Eating

More and more health food blogs are popping up that tout the benefits of a primal or Paleo diet. What exactly is a Paleo Diet? Well, the easiest way to decipher what it is is to call it the caveman diet. Some of them even appear to want to club their veggie eating neighbors over the heads with a drumstick.

The basic idea is that we need to eat what cavemen ate before modern inventions like farming and food processing. So they eat fish, lean meats, eggs, nuts, fruit, greens, and seeds. They do not eat grains, legumes, dairy, bread, and processed foods. Overall I think the paleo diet is a million times more healthful than the SAD. It has many ideas that I already see value in due to my love of an even MORE primal diet, raw foods… no dairy, no grains, no legumes, but also no meat. That said though I think the paleo/caveman ideal is a bit false because it relies heavily on meat and certainly cavemen did not have meat on the menu every night seeing as how they had to catch and kill it. During warmer weather I am sure they would have much preferred to sit back and munch on fruits and nuts rather than go chasing after a wild animal. So it seems in my mind that meat may have been on the menu but not as the main course, especially when plant based foods were prevalent. And while they did eat lean meats they also ate WILD game… not pastured chicken and cows. Although I have seen some paleo diet enthusiasts proclaim they only eat wild game like elk, turkey, moose, buffalo, etc. I see some holes in the logic but I cannot deny that compared to what we see around us today it is a very healthy way to eat.

The paleo diet often has to defend itself against the raw foodies who declare their way of eating is even more primal. I would tend to side with the raw foodists. If we are the products of evolution and we evolved from primates… they are primarily raw vegans. If we are the products of creation than there is also a good Biblical case for the fact that we were intended to eat as herbivores.

I have also seen the argument that the paleo diet is more planet friendly than that of vegetarians and vegans but I see some problems with this argument. First because it assumes that vegetarians and vegans support mass agriculture of grains and legumes, which do negatively impact soil. But there are PLENTY veg enthusiasts that don't eat any of those things. Also let's not forget that much of the grains, corn, and soy that are being produced today are actually being grown as feed for livestock that can then be turned into meat. Its not the vegetarians and vegans growing all those crops! Paleo enthusiasts will then remind you they support grass fed livestock but any large scale livestock operation, even if it is grass fed, has environmental issues… top soil is eroded, trees are stripped away to make pastures, and mass amounts of waste can't be disposed of properly, etc.

Some paleo eaters also assume that vegetarians and vegans endorse plant only agricultural systems but actually I have been raw, vegan, vegetarian inclined for a couple years and I don't think that way at all. Even if we don't consume "meat" many would still raise chickens for eggs and sell or use chicken manure for crops. Others would raise cows for milk and cheese and use or sell the cow manure for crops. Others still would raise beneficial animals for their own enjoyment… like horses and goats. Everyone is so black and white about everything and a lot of assumptions are made all around when they should be agreeing that plant and animal farm operations are equally bad when they get huge in scale and the smaller, family farm model is what needs to make a comeback. It is often grudgingly admitted that a true paleo diet is not sustainable for the current population. I have actually read on several paleo blogs that their ideal is to eliminate all farming and let the population reduce itself (aka let people starve and die) so that we can get back to a true hunter gatherer society.

Overall I like what the paleo diet is all about I just wish that the more vocal supporters weren't so militant about their meat and about telling everyone that you NEED it to survive. That is just silliness IMO. But getting back to the basics is always a good thing and that is essentially what the paleo diet is about, getting closer to what we ate BEFORE farming and getting closer to what we should be eating as a species.

A good blog about the subject is Mark's Daily Apple. The guy who writes the blog also wrote a book called The Primal Blueprint.

Also there are the popular Paleo Cookbooks.

Recipes for the Paleo Diet - Two Cookbooks - 120 Recipes Each!

Are you familiar with the paleo diet? What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

8 Comments on What is The Paleo Diet?