31
Dec

A Great Cause to Support in 2013 – World Food Programme

by Tiffany in Social Good

Donate Now!I am writing up a post to share how I did on my goals for 2012 went and I am of course thinking about my goals for 2013. Part of my new goals will be the resolution to do more for others in 2013 both locally and globally and to be better about setting an example in this regard for my kids. It’s all part of Raising Kids Who Care. I am sure that with the holidays now almost behind us many are feeling quite fortunate for what we have and we want to find ways to help others throughout the upcoming year. I plan to post regularly all year long about initiatives and causes that are worthwhile to support with our time and resources.

On this last day of 2012 I want to share the World Food Programme and the work they do. They work to help with hunger after the devastation brought by hurricanes, drought, and armed conflict. My life has never been touched by any of these things but even if they did I have certain advantages that would help me and my family through obstacles like this just because I live in the country I do. Many others around the globe are not so fortunate and when faced with disasters like these their very lives hang in the balance and the World Food Programme saves lives. Donations made at this moment in time provide life-saving food for refugees fleeing conflict in Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, families facing the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy in Haiti, and mothers struggling to feed their children due to drought in Somalia.

Donations are tax deductible of course and the work they do is hugely important. There are several ways we can get involved and support this work. If you keep a list of charitable organizations to support throughout the year I hope you will add this one.

Have a wonderful New Year!

This post was written as a member of the Global Team of 200 a group of mom bloggers banding together to work for social good.

12
Dec

My Week With the Kia Optima Hybrid

by Tiffany in Green Cars

Last week I had the pleasure of cruising around Columbus in a Kia Optima Hybrid. It is a bit pricier than most of the other cars I have gotten to test drive of late and it was my first hybrid. My previous experience has mostly been with regular vehicles that have great fuel economy or all electric cars. I was really jazzed to get a behind the wheel of a hybrid. It took a little while to get used to because it is a very different drive.

The Optima gets an A+ for looks that for sure. It is very stylish and fairly large and spacious inside. This model was not the highest end model which has leather seats but I actually liked the look and feel of the cloth seats in this vehicle. I would not go for a light beige interior myself, because I have kids, but I am not a fan of how hot leather is in summer and how cold it is in winter so the mid range model is a perfect fit for me. Though I must add that the top of the line model has heated seats so the winter cold seats issue wouldn’t really be an issue. I do love that option. The base price starts at $25,700. The model I drove was $27,150. It has a 10 year/100,000 mile limited powertrain warranty.

My favorite feature on the Kia Optima is the Push Button Start and Smart Key (below). It actually did not start out being a plus in my mind because I had the habit of tossing the key in the cupholder and then on the first day I forgot it was there and went inside the house leaving the key in the car. I remembered right away but kept thinking this was a car theft situation waiting to happen. Then I had my “Doh!” moment when I realized that I didn’t even have to take the key out of my purse. That realization made this feature quite awesome. All I had to do was grab my purse and toss it on the seat next to me, push the button, and away we went. If I wanted to lock it I could just reach a finger into my purse and activate (or deactivate) the locks. Easy peasy and no more searching for misplaced keys because they never needed to leave my purse!

When you push the start button the car has a lyrical chime and the screen behind the steering wheel welcomes you. It doesn’t sound as though the car is even on because it is in EV mode. When you step on the gas it switches into regular, non electric, mode. It will go back into EV mode when idling at a light, stopping for traffic, etc. It takes awhile to get used to how quiet it is. It also takes some time to get used to the kick between EV mode and regular because it isn’t always smooth. At first I found it very jerky and was not so much a fan but as with any car you begin to get your sea legs and it rides smoother once you are familiar with it. I appreciate the system though. The Kia engine cuts off when stopped or the electrical load is low. This saves fuel and reduces emissions. Any time the breaks are applied the Regenerative Breaking System charges the battery.

Fuel economy according to the Monroney sticker is 34 city MPG and 39 Highway MPG. I mostly drove around in the city and got 31.2 average MPG. That average did start to go up when I drove across town on the highway to take the kids to a movie but it went back down once I was back in the city. No big shocker there. I liked that the display screen has a tree with leaves and blossoms on it and the better you drive, the more flowers you have. It was nice to see that while driving (as an option) and gauge how eco friendly my driving was. Very often I had 7 of the 8 flowers and one time I managed to get all 8!! I was super stoked. ;)

Other nice features include the Bluetooth Wireless technology available. It allows you to talk on the phone hands free, using your steering wheel to answer and end calls and adjust volume. All of this is designed to help you keep your eyes on the road. It has cruise control of course (which is what allowed me to get that coveted 8th flower) and USB port to plug my phone or iPod into. The songs display on the 2nd screen (above the radio) too (love that). That same screen also displays the view from the rear view camera. This allows you to see behind you when backing out. I just adore this feature in cars, it makes backing out at grocery stores so helpful. You obviously have to look around to see if other cars or people are coming up on you but the camera allows you to look for children, who may fall below your window view area, and it tells you in no uncertain terms how close you are to other parked cars.

Also notable are the fantastic safety ratings of this car and the fact that it is manufactured in the US – West Point, GA to be exact. If you want American made cars that support American jobs then this car is a good purchase. That is not to say that all Kia’s are made here in the US, but the Optima is. I really enjoyed getting to take it for a spin!

Disclosure: I borrowed a Kia Optima  for the purposes of this review. Sadly I had to give it back…

11
Dec

pvBody Workout Gear

by Tiffany in Fitness

After rediscovering fitness and exercise a couple years ago it quickly became apparent why fitness clothing is such a big business. When I joined a gym, and it stuck, I needed to go out and buy some fitness clothing. What I found second hand (my preferred way to shop) was usually not sufficient. The workout clothing was either worn to shreds by someone who actually used it or it was new with tags but in size XXS or XXL. There seemed to be little middle ground. So I had to buy some workout clothing and being used to second hand (aka cheap stuff) I went to big box stores where I could get away cheaply.

This ended up being a very bad idea. I bought two $5 tees, two fitness brand shirts, and one pair of fitness capris. All of it was cheap as I wanted but I soon figured out why it is best to leave the fitness clothing to the higher end companies who actually know what they are doing and are not simply trying to churn out a cheap product. I guess I knew this already but since I just going to sweat tons and get dirty in these clothes I figured maybe I could get away with it. Wrong.

Every single item that I bought that day I still have but yet I never ever wear them. I will happily do a last minute load of laundry just to avoid having to wear any of those items. Why? Well, now that I know what good quality workout gear fits and feels like I cannot stand to wear anything else. The old capris ride down and show my underpants when I bend over. They fit bizarrely in the crotch area too and I am always pulling at them. The shirts ride up and show my belly when I am doing burpees. The waist area feels tent like and the arm area doesn’t stay put when I am moving and gets all bunched up. The result is that I spend the workout worrying more about my clothing then performing my best. Well no more. Now I will actually save up if I have to…to get the gear I need. It hurts a bit to buy a $50 t-shirt or a $100 pair of pants but they perform well and they last much longer than the cheap stuff.

I recently got to try some pvBody workout clothing and have been very impressed. The outfit they sent me looks and feels like uber expensive compression gear which is very popular among CrossFitters because they allow for more blood flow to muscles. They fit like a glove and stay put, which is wonderful and they are also made with high quality materials so I know they will last a long time and stay looking nice. The top has a built in bra and it actually works so there is no need for that extra bit of clothing. I am a DD so that is no joke yo!

I have been really pleased with these items and I know they will be heavily used. The top can be worn in winter with a pair of compression sleeves and the pants keep me toasty warm but not overly hot once I break a sweat, whether I am running outside or rowing inside, or both. They will work for all seasons.

I have my eye on this amazing top next…with a built in bra, I could actually wear a criss-cross design like this.

 

Easy peasy lemon squeezy: pvBody is easy. Take the quiz, sign up and boom, an awesome package arrives at your door each month with a hand picked outfit for you!

Every outfit is styled just for you by a pvBody expert. Each month you receive an outfit worth $150, but you pay just $49.95. You’re getting great, quality pieces for a fraction of the retail cost thanks to the relationships pvBody has built.

pvBody is not just another clothing company, but a lifestyle brand. Their blog is a great place to check out tips and tricks for healthy, delicious meals and at home workouts.

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

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10
Dec

Should We Get Behind Plastic Bag Bans?

by Tiffany in Political Action

 

When it comes to Government legislation I don’t tow any particular party line. I like to look at each situation individually and make up my mind. That means I may end up voting against implementing something like a smoking ban in bars (even though I think the habit is beyond disgusting) because I don’t feel my it’s my right to make a private business owner do things my way and I can always opt out of bar hopping if I want to limit exposure right? If I lived in California I would have voted yes on Prop 37 though, which would have forced food companies to label GMOs in their products because we ALL have a right to know what we are eating. No company should be able to be “mysterious” about food ingredients.

On both sides of issues like these you see the push for doing what is right, what is moral, and what is healthy for everyone. On the flip side you hear about how jobs will be lost and costs will go up when companies go under or pass the buck on to the consumer. All of it has to be considered and weighed carefully. We also have to be able to see when the arguments coming out of one of the camps are compete and utter horse crap (as in the case of those arguing against Prop 37). Sometimes people and planet HAVE to come before profit if we want to lead our children into a better world.

This is how I feel about plastic bags bans. I am for them in every instance.

Plastic bags present a huge planetary problem and the solution (a reusable bag) is so easy that it makes no sense not to do something NOW. These bags are ending up in our oceans and killing marine life. Birds and other animals (wild and domestic) can also ingest them and die because they are everywhere. It is estimated that many cities around the world are spending millions of dollars each year just to manage plastic bag litter because the patrons who use them are too lazy to make sure they end up being recycled or even taken to a landfill. They do property damage when they cause traffic accidents on the road or they get sucked in boat engines. They require lots of natural gas or oil to manufacture too. They are wasteful all around and an eyesore to look at, and let’s face it plastic bag litter is a problem everywhere.

I don’t want us to live in a nanny state any more than you do but I think we (as a race) have already shown that we cannot handle the responsibility of plastic bags and since they are plastic and likely to be around long after we have left this earth do we really have a right to use them and impact the planet and future generations in such a way? I say no. It’s time to ban them.

This great Pros and Cons chart from Factory Direct Promos makes the argument better than I ever could.

Reusable bags are a viable option for this problem. They cost very little and they last for a long time. Everyone can put on their big boy pants and big girl panties are start carrying their own bags to the store. There are no valid argument for why they shouldn’t have to…at least in my mind.

Which brings me to bag ban activism. Many cities are catching on to the fact that this legislation is sorely needed and the aforementioned company, Factory Direct Promos, has an awesome Plastic Bag Ban Map that helps keep you up to date on the latest legislation so you can help support this movement. It shows where they have been passed and where they have failed. It also shows where bag fees have been initiated instead. I have no problem with charging for plastic bags instead of banning them. Both are a step in the right direction…fewer plastic bags being consumed!

Until some of these initiatives reach our neck of the woods we can also do our part by using cloth bags ourselves and by gifting them to others so that they too can get with the program. One of my fave products is a cloth basket that fits inside a shopping cart and eliminates the need for bags altogether. Here are two in use by me and my family at Whole Foods…

We just put them inside the shopping cart when we arrive and then fill them as we shop. Everything goes onto the belt for scanning and payment and then everything is just put back inside the baskets. They come out of cart by using the handles and they go inside the trunk and are carried in the house just as they are. So easy!

If these are too pricey there are numerous affordable options on the market. There are even some that take the place of the produce bags that you put your loose apples, green beans, and mushrooms in. They are called EcoBags. Love them!

Cloth Produce Bags
 

All of these make great gifts or products for yourself. It is important to use them and show others (including our own families) that it is important to do our our part to reduce plastic bag usage and pollution. The bag problem is just too big to ignore and until more people own this issue I will support bag bans and bag fees at every turn. I hope you will too!

This post is part of the Give the gift of a Plastic-Free World This Holiday and Join the Plastic Bag Ban Movement! blog carnival. Enjoy!

10
Dec

Eco Stocking Stuffer Ideas for Adults

by Tiffany in Green Holidays

Looking for some unique stocking stuffer ideas for the adults in your life that won’t break the bank or the planet? I have compiled a list of some of my favorites. I am not big on cutesy stuff or novelty items that have no real function in every day life. Yeah, that Santa that poops jelly beans is cute but I would not want to find it in my stocking. Impractical items just seem like a waste to me so everything on this list is functional and would be most welcome in the life of your treehugger. Or perhaps you are the treehugger and the recipient is not, don’t sweat, these stocking stuffers will work for them too.

Glass Straws: Very functional yet small enough for stocking and beautiful to boot. If you buy a set then you have an affordable gift for 4-5 people too. Greenies will love them and those who are not will be intrigued. I am a long time user and it is hard to go back to anything else once you see how lovely it is to drink a smoothie through a piece of glass artwork!

If you are worried about breakage try stainless steel drink straws.

Lip Balm: Perfect for men or women this time of year. I recommend Eco Lips.

Seeds: The gardeners in your life will love heirloom seeds varieties.

Recipes: This could be a sneaky way to help the recipient get healthier or maybe you know they will enjoy Aunt Esther’s peanut brittle you modified with a healthy twist. Either way you might want to get some blank recipe cards, fill them out, and give the gift of healthier, greener food!

Spices: Foodies will love to try new and exotic spices. Buy a bottle or two (in glass or stainless tins) and maybe attach the aforementioned recipe cards for meal ideas.

Gloves: Hand knit gloves can be found on Etsy and in stores. Try to find some made with organic materials or recycled materials. I found these fun Sock Monkey Fingerless Knit Gloves on Amazon (recycled materials).

Journaling Materials – Have a writer or journal lover you need to gift? Try some eco pens and poo poo paper (yes it IS paper made from animal dung).

Rechargeable Batteries: Did you give someone an electronic gift or give one to their child, that requires batteries such as a gaming system, clock, ect. Well this is the perfect companion gift…batteries that they can keep using over and over, saving resources and money! I like Eneloop personally and this charger and 4 battery pack is perfect for Christmas stockings.

Pine Cone Fire Starters: Make them yourself or buy them but if your giftee has a fireplace and loves a roaring fire these make a practical gift.

Eco Perfumes: Small yet fragrant and healthy for the wearer. I wrote a post with a few ideas here.

Soy or Beeswax Candles: Many people LOVE candles and soy and beeswax are better alternatives. Natural fragrance is ideal too. I am really liking Mrs. Meyers Clean Day candles for gifting. They come in a nifty tin that is perfect for a stocking and they are made of soy. This brand also sells glass candles with lids.

Do you have any ideas to share?