Monday, March 30, 2009

Storing Winter Clothes

A little bit late this morning as my husband starts a new job and I helped him get out the door.

This tip is appropriate for me, as for the first time, we have a home that doesn't have enough closet space for all of our clothes. We will be packing up the winter stuff and storing it in big plastic (reusable) containers soon. Jodi Helmer recommends in "The Green Year" to use cedar blocks or Bay leaves to repel moths rather than moth balls. Who likes the smell of those anyway? Cedar and Bay leaves it is!

Friday, March 27, 2009


Piggy backing on Wednesday's post, a friend of mine also suggested putting the hair from your hair brush out in the backyard for the bird nests. She warns, though, that the human smell can deter other wildlife, such as deer. Putting human hair in small mesh bags and hanging them on the fence of your veggie garden will also keep the rabbits and other critters from eating your veggies. A great, enviro-friendly way to garden.

Today's money saving tip from "The Green Year" is also about hair. Jodi Helmer advises to start using a two-in-one shampoo and conditioner. Buying a two in one product usually saves money and it will save on plastic waste heading to the landfill. As well, it saves time in the shower, thus saving water. This will eventually save money on your water heating, as well as the water bill, or the electricity to pump the water if you're on a well.

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Laundry For The Birds

Since today is laundry day at my house, the tip from The Green Year is appropriate. Jodi Helmer recommends putting the lint from your dryer in your backyard so the birds who are building nests can use it! "The soft lint is ideal for birds to feather their nests and is a much more eco-friendly alternative than throwing it in the garbage."

Monday, March 23, 2009

ATM Receipts

Another Monday morning in paradise. The next tip from Jodi Helmer's "The Green Year" advises us to not take receipts when using the ATM. "The receipts from 8 billion ATM transactions per year are one of the biggest sources of litter on the planet. If Americans declined their ATM receipts, it would save a roll of paper more than 2 billion feet long - enough to circle the equator more than 15 times!"

That's what I love about this book, it not only tells us what to do, it tells us why and gives us the global perspective. The book advises to bank online and view transactions there, which I have started doing. I love online banking! Much easier and no more paper!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Electronic Files

The fires were close enough to smell Wednesday evening. We had to cut our walk short as the smoke was irritating our eyes and throats. There was no owl this morning, but the coyotes were once again close enough to send my dogs into fits of barking. I just wish they would come closer a little later than 4 a.m!

Today's tip from "The Green Year" is a simple one that we all should remember. Don't print anything out that cannot be stored electronically. I still write my story interview notes by long hand, but I'm slowly converting all of our bills and statements to electronic storage. It not only saves me precious space that I could use for other things, but it helps the planet. Author Jodi Helmer says Americans use almost 90 million tons of paper each year - enough for 700 pounds per person, per year.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Journey

It's funny how we become adapted to the environment in which we are accustomed. To many people here, the threat of cities - crime, pollution, and just fear of the unknown is frightening. Of course, being city natives, we navigate the city and all of its bad elements with ease. For us, the elements to fear here have been tornadoes, floods, ice storms and now forest fires. As we were coming home from our 2 mile drive to get the mail yesterday and heading back down the mountain, we could see a huge plume of smoke just beyond our point on another mountain across the lake. It was a scene like we had witnessed in fires shown on the evening news from California. I came home and called the sheriff's department, who calmly said that the volunteer fire department had been sent to fight "the brush fire that got way out of hand." Fire makes us more than a little nervous, even if it is on the next mountain and by the time evening rolled around, the woods on our mountain was full of blue gray smoke. We walked back up the mountain where we could see the other and thankfully, it appeared the "brush fire" had been dowsed. Amazing what a volunteer fire department can accomplish in a few hours.

As for the tip today from "The Green Year," it again involves taking those daily walks and for many of us, that means dragging our four-legged family members along. Two of ours are large enough to take care of themselves in the woods and can go off leash. Our two little ones, though, are kept on leashes mainly for their own protection, again from the unknowns to us in the woods. We don't have to buy leashes often, but next time we do, it will be made of canvas or hemp, as Jodi Helmer suggests in her book.
She says most leashes are produced with nylon, which produces nitrous oxide, a gas associated with global warming. "Replacing all of the nylon pet leashes in the United States would prevent the release of the same amount of greenhouse gases produced by 250,000 households per year."

A quick google search of "hemp dog leashes" produces a ton of websites that sell natural collars, leashes and other dog products.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Walking Through Nature

Before I talk about today's green tip, I just have to say how cool it's been these past two mornings coming out of the house early and hearing the owl that lives down by the cove behind our house. When I don't hear "my owl," for awhile, I get a little worried he's gone. My husband reminded me we hadn't heard him because we just haven't been going outside in the cold. I also heard the coyote pack very early yesterday morning and was awakened after a mid-morning nap by some song birds that sounded as if they were in the room with me. The woods are coming alive for spring!
That leads me into today's tip. Thanks to the warmer weather, we've had more of an opportunity to getting back to our twice daily 1-mile walks with the dogs. I'm hard on sneakers, and I need extra support. Because my feet are so tiny (a child's size 4), I have to buy kids' basketball shoes. They're a little clunky and have extra rubber on the soles and I often worry about sending them to the landfill when I need a new pair.
Now I have to worry no more. Jodi Helmer suggests in "The Green Year" to recycle shoes through the Nike-Reuse-A-Shoe program. The program turns the soles of used athletic shoes into surface material for basketball courts, athletic fields, running tracks and playgrounds. Jodi says that as of the writing of the book, the program had recycled approximately 20 million pairs of shoes. Find more information at

On Wednesday, more tips about walking "green" with dogs.

Don't forget your green tomorrow for St. Paddy's Day, Have a Happy One!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Shopping Secondhand Stores

I once wrote on this blog that I had so much furniture from inheriting my mother's antiques that I would probably never have to buy another stick of furniture again. Well, I've had to buy a desk and a bed- and I tried to keep it as eco-friendly as possible. But when my husband wanted me to buy another patio set for the small covered porch on my office, I told him we could do with what we have. There's no sense, really, in wasting resources (ours or the earths) when we have 2 sets that could be used sitting in our storage barn.
Jodi Helmer suggests in "The Green Year" that we do the same thing with clothes. "Americans dispose of nearly 4 billion tons of clothing every year. Fabric can take years to break down in the landfill." Helmer writes that vintage clothing is fashionable, provides a one of a kind look and keeps clothes from the landfill.
My neighbor here shops at second hand stores for her clothes and you would never know it. The next time I need an outfit, I'll probably join her.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Challenge...

There is at least one good thing for us that came out of the January ice storm here, which left hundreds of thousands without power and caused such widespread damage that it looks like a tornado or bomb damaged the landscape from here to Kentucky.
We learned how much electricity our radiator type heater was using. You see, our small house is insulated so well that it can be heated all winter with nothing but one of those electric heaters. Still, the darn thing used a lot of electricity, apparently.
When the lights went off here for 8 days, we used, for the first time, our small wood stove. We had it installed (thank goodness) as the house was being built for just such an emergency. However, when we realized how well the house had been insulated, we were always afraid that even the smallest of fires would run us out of the house.
Instead, we did learn to use and control it and after the electricity was restored, we decided to keep using it, saving us money - and the environment from the KWh needed for more electricity.
I'm so glad we did. When I received our bill last month, which included 14 days with the heater, 8 days without power and about 6 days using the wood burner, the bill stated we had used 817 KWh of electricity. Our bill, for a 480-square-foot house (less computers which are on a separate meter for my office) was exactly $100. I called to argue with the electric company that this couldn't be possible, but the rep. insisted it was and suggested we read our own meter periodically and "keep an eye on it."
She told me what numbers to read on our digital meter that hangs on the house. In the meantime, we continued to use the wood stove for heat (we aren't without a seemingly lifetime supply of wood thanks to the storm) and we also unplugged our kitchen appliances - microwave, toaster oven, coffee pot when not in use. We also hooked the television, a non-essential phone, lamp, and DVD player to a power strip that is turned off when we aren't watching TV. It is saving us.
But yesterday was an eye opener, we used 42 KWh of electricity in one day doing laundry - even after I figured out a way to reduce the chore by two loads. Still, we've only used 370 KWh total this month, and we have just a few days to go on this billing cycle. Our bill should be reduced by at least half.
So, I challenge you to learn to read your meter, figure out what is pulling the most power from your house and try to reduce it.
It will not only save you money, but will help save the environment too.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Leave a Message....

For the environment. The thing I love about "The Green Year" is that it has so many unusual tips I haven't even thought of to help save energy, which helps the environment.
What's even better is that Author Jodi Helmer gives figures of how much we could save. This week, she advises us to sign up for voice mail through your phone company rather than having an answering machine.
She says answering machines can use up to 100 KWh of energy per year - or the equivalent of doing 30 loads of laundry in hot water.
"If all answering machines in the United States were replaced with voice mail systems, the emissions savings would be the equivalent to taking 250,000 cares off the road."
WOW! a quarter of a million cars!? Who would have thought?
I already use a voice mail system through the phone company at our house and have for years. One thing we are doing new to save electricity is turning the power off to the television, DVD player and other electronics connected through a power strip. Besides saving energy, why pay the electric company to give us power to the television when it's not in use.
We are substantially saving this month as we started using our wood stove for heat when we lost our power during the ice storm and never returned to use the energy-sucking electric heater we were using.
So far, our use this month is down from 810 KWh of use for the last month we used the heater, to a little over 200 KWh. YAY! We're saving money and helping the environment.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Buying in Bulk

Our neighbor who lives here part time from Kansas City does all of her shopping at Costco.
"The Green Year" gives a tip to buy in bulk when you can. It saves on packaging and while it costs more to buy the bulk items, it does save you in the end.
Some items that are best bought in bulk:
toilet paper
paper towels
women's hygiene products
pain relievers
office supplies

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Is Recycling Even A Question Anymore?

Sadly, yes. One of the tips in "The Green Year" about doing one of the most basic things for the environment is simply: Recycle!
Unfortunately, that tip leads me into a story in The Baxter Bulletin this week about Mountain Home, Ark., the largest town in our area, eliminating their curbside recycling program on Monday.The recycling industry has taken a big hit, along with the rest of us, in this economy. Cans, cardboard, paper and especially glass, just isn't bringing in the profit it did even a year ago. It is no longer profitable for recycling companies, who operate like other companies in our capitalistic society - for a profit, to do curbside recycling in many areas. Most recyclers even stopped taking glass altogether as long as two years ago. According to the article, it was proposed to charge Mountain Home residents a mere 60 cents per month for the convenience, but the city council failed to act on that measure.
This also ties in with my post on Monday stating that as individuals, we can no longer wait for the government, or large corporations to take the lead in making sure our children and grandchildren will have a clean planet with clean air and be able to see animals in their natural habitat.
Jodi Helmer quotes in her book that the recycling rate in the U.S. is just at 33 percent.
According to unesco website, the U.S. produces about 64 million tons of waste each year. This is compared to Germany who produces just a little over 4 tons of waste each year.
That waste is going to landfills, being shipped to foreign islands and floating on barges at sea. Jodi Helmer also states in "The Green Year," that if every household in the U.S. would separate just their plastic, paper and aluminum products, we would reduce that waste in the landfills by 75 percent.
In the Baxter Bulletin article, one resident is quoted as saying, "We don't know what we'll do," now that the curbside recycling program is gone.
While I agree it to be a very irresponsible for our government to allow something as important as recycling to operate only if it turns a profit, we must all take responsibility. As rural residents, we don't even have the convenience of having our non-recyclable trash picked up. We sort our trash from recyclables every week and haul them on one of our regular multi-errand trips to the transfer station in town, where our recyclables and trash go to two different lots. In the city, it's much easier to simply keep your recyclables from regular trash pick up and swing by the recycling place on one of your own multi-errands out.
Sometimes doing the right thing isn't about making a profit, nor is it the most convenient, we just do it because it's the right thing.

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Journey to Green

A tip in "The Green Year" this week reminds us that not everyone knows that "going green" is more than a buzz phrase, something trendy to do for pop culture history at this moment in time.
Many of us who are going green are doing so because we fully believe that we are at a major crossroads in history, that we can't wait for the lagging auto industry or government to mandate change. We believe that if all of us don't start doing even the small things, that our children and grandchildren and future generations will be left to deal with the fall out.
It is the small things that can make a difference. When I made our first step going green over 20 years ago by using cloth bags instead of paper or plastic, my husband, who worked at the largest landfill in the Kansas City area, poo-pooed what kind of an impact that could have. It took me 20 years of counting, but when I informed him that me and my mom had saved over 10,000 bags from the landfill in that time, he realized that even the small steps one family of three people can make can help.
It irritates me when I see columns saying in essence that no matter what we do, we leave a carbon footprint.
That's true. We're now heating our small house with a wood stove instead of using electricity. I know that the smoke is still leaving an imprint on the environment, but it is less so than the nuclear plant is producing in Louisiana that supplies our electricity, and the amount of energy it takes to just get that electricity here. Again, it is not something that can be tangibly seen that will immediately have an impact, but something we are doing that will have an impact over time.
And, it is impacting our budget in a positive way immediately.
Many of Jodi Helmer's tips in her book, "The Green Year," gives data on what kind of impact taking the small steps can have. For example, she states that most of the 15 billion batteries used each year end up in the landfill. By purchasing rechargeable batteries, how many will your family save? How many will 5 families, and 20 save? See, we can all have an impact.
So, if you're not convinced, or your family is not convinced that the time is now to make every effort to help our planet, do what Jodi recommends this week, invite your friends and family over, pop yourself some popcorn, turn off the lights and watch a documentary on the environment. She recommends "An Inconvenient Truth" and "The 11th hour."
Going green doesn't have to overwhelm you. Start small. Recycle, reuse. It will also save you some green.