Friday, May 29, 2009

Free Coffee at Borders

Going to a Border's bookstore this weekend? Go to this website and print out a coupon for a free small coffee

Oh, yes - and buy books! That's how we writers stay in business! :)

Green Tip for the day:

Last year, I planted patio tomatoes. I think the whole season, I was able to harvest a total of 3 from 4 plants. The problem I had was bugs attacking the plants. I tried organic sprays, but they didn't seem to work well. This year, when the bugs returned and started eating my tomato buds, I suddenly remembered my mom planting marigolds around her plants to keep the bugs away. I bought some last Sunday and so far, it's working, no sign of bugs - and I have tons of fruit already turning green!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cut the Power

I hate sending our hard earned money to the utility companies, but of course, I love power, after having gone without it for 8 days during the ice storm, I wouldn't NOT want to have it.
But there are ways to make writing that check a little less painless. One of the biggest things that we've done since January to reduce energy waste - and save money - is watching what we use in electricity - and I mean this very literally. We have a new digital meter on our house which is very easy to read. I started keeping track of the readings each day and recording how we used our power through watching television, cooking, leaving lights on, doing laundry, etc. Cooking and doing laundry makes the meter rise faster than the thermometer on a hot day in August, so I started combining as many loads as possible.
One other big money saver in my office (which is on a different meter) is turning the electric hot water tank off when it is not in use. I rarely need it here, unless someone is going to shower, so we don't waste the money keeping it on.
We also do the obvious:
Turn off lights and television when not in use.
Unplug appliances, including the microwave, TV, toaster oven and coffee pot when not in use.
Use new, energy saving light bulbs.
Turn off the computer when not in use.
Unplug chargers, and fax machine.

We've managed to reduce our electric bill by HALF in the past few months just by taking these easy steps. Of course, we will see a rise in the summer when we turn on the air conditioning, but to me, that air is worth it, leaving an unused microwave plugged in or leaving on an unwatched TV is not!

Happy Summer, Everyone!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Cost Cutters that Also Help You Go Green

In these ever-increasing bad economic conditions, more and more of us are looking for ways to cut costs. I sat down this week with a list of our expenses this week and determined which ones needed cut, or which ones could be eliminated altogether. Next, I made a list of ways we could save money, did a little research and got some more ideas. I realized many of these are ways we can start to help the environment anyway. I'll be listing them here for the next few posts. If you have any ideas to add, I would like to hear them in the comments - our budget could use all of the help it can get!

Tip#1-We are returning to clipping every coupon we can find. While this may not seem like a "green" move, the ones I am printing from are being printed on recycled paper, or paper destined for the recycling bin anyway. I'm printing them in B&W only.
Once, when I was waiting for my mother to finish an appointment in the hospital, someone saw me clipping coupons and asked me if it was worth it. At the time, I did it every week, without fail and was saving an average of $15-$20 a month. The biggest 1-time savings was just recently when I saved over $10 on groceries thanks to coupons.
I think it's worth the time.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

More Free Ice Cream

Wal-Mart is giving away free ice cream on Saturday May 30 at 2,000 of its Super Centers across the country. For more information, go to

As I've blogged about before, we shop at Wal-Mart, really, because there's no where else to shop in this part of rural Arkansas. We do have one locally owned grocer left, but they are so high, we only shop there for what limited meat we buy and sale items.
A few months back, my husband picked up some Wal-Mart cloth bags for $1 each. This doesn't mean that their clerks know how to pack them (or any other bags for that matter), or that they offer you cash back for using them.
That's right, I said, "cash back," which is what we used to get at our locally owned grocer in Kansas City when we brought our own bags. A nickel a bag may not seem like a lot, but it all adds up - and in this economy, that's important. When you think about it, it's only fair for them to offer a refund per bag, as the cost of using their own bags is already calculated into the cost of groceries.
Maybe we should all get together for a petition drive to ask Wal-Mart to reimburse us for our cloth bags?

Monday, May 18, 2009

One Perfect Day in the Ozarks

We finally had one perfect sunny day in the Ozarks yesterday and we used it to work outside. Dale helped me plant my Topsy Turvey tomatoes - you know the ones that hang upside down in a basket. As he worked clearing some more debris from the ice storm and raking leaves, I planted my flowers, which is a sign spring is here and summer is on it's way!
It's a bit late this year as it has been one wet, cool spring, but yesterday was a perfect 70 degrees or so with low humidity and bright, sunny skies. We haven't seen that often in the past month. It felt so good, I didn't put on the sunscreen yesterday (I know, very bad) and soaked in the Vitamin D.
My plants also made their way out for their summer growth - all for one - the peace Lilly my Godbrother and his wife sent to Mom's funeral. They don't do well in extremes so it stays in year around. It's good to have plants in the house, as they work to create oxygen in the house, while helping clear the air of toxins.
This brings me to Jodi Helmer's tip in "The Green Year," which also advises to have houseplants in the home year around. She says English Ivy, Bamboo and Spider Plants are best for improving air quality inside.
Make sure your plants aren't toxic to your pets, though. Go to to learn which ones might be harmful.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Going Green is a Trial

At least it is around my house. My husband has been fighting my green efforts every since I started using cloth bags at the grocery store 20 years ago. First, it was "This isn't going to solve anything, two people using these bags." Today, he seems embarrassed when the clerk doesn't know how to handle the cloth bags. "It just blows their mind, why do you even bother?" Even when I showed him it had saved over 10,000 bags from the landfill over two decades, he hasn't stopped complaining. The cans and plastic means extra work - and a trip out of our way to go to the landfill. Now it is the soap. For months, he's been complaining that I stopped using bleach in the laundry and started using environmentally friendly soap. "Where did you find that bar of soap?" he asked this morning. "It doesn't even smell like anything."
Not that my husband would want the soap to smell like anything. If it smelled like flowers, he would be complaining about that.
Sometimes it seems I should just give up on going green and give in. Then I think about the 10,000+ bags we've saved and I remind my husband of the fact that we haven't had a septic backup because bleach is killing the good bacteria necessary to break down the solid waste and paper.
Sure, the soaps might not bubble up as much, they may not smell as good and the green bleach I'm using doesn't leave that scent we were always taught meant "fresh and clean" growing up.
But they are doing their jobs without all the harmful chemicals and perfumes - and it's the job they're doing, not our long held belief of how they smell or how many bubbles they produce that matters.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ditch the Carpet and Freebies from Self Magazine

Today's freebie post brings you 40 chances to win prizes from Self Magazine:

"The Green Year" suggests for fresh smelling carpets, use baking soda rather than harsh chemical treatments. Just lightly dust, let sit for at least 20 minutes and then vacuum.

Since moving to the Ozarks, I feel a sense of freedom from that clunky thing we all usually have to drag around several times a week - the vacuum. A person once told me that anyone who puts carpets in their homes in the rural south is crazy. I believe them. Between the red clay, the dogs (and the critters they sometimes drag in on them), I already would have ripped our carpets and burned them. But luckily, we got that advice before we built the cabin. If you can, ditch the carpets all together and go with a high performance laminate or environmentally friendly bamboo flooring. Free yourself of the vacuum!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Free Ice Cream

This may not directly related to going green, but we all need a little ice cream in our lives!
Get a free scoop of Haagen Dazs ice cream at any Haagen Dazs ice cream store in the U.S. on Tuesday May 12 between 4-8 p.m. You can stop on your way home from work!

Here's a great tip from The Green Year today. Did you know that plastic flower pots are made of PVC, a material that is known as "poison plastic?"

I didn't either. I just bought them because they are cheap.

They may be inexpensive for us, but they are costing the earth a lot. These plastics are not biodegradable and cannot be recycled. As a matter of fact, Author Jodi Helmer explains that throwing these into the recycling bin can contaminate other recyclables - up to 100,000 bottles that will then be labeled as non-recyclable.

The alternative is to buy real terra cotta - it's a natural material that can eventually be recycled.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Free Stuff at Freecycle

Freecycle is a network that allows individuals and organizations to list their stuff in order to keep it from going into the landfill. If you clean out your closets, barns, garages and list it on freecycle, you get rid of stuff you don't need and someone else does. You also make room so you can maybe find something there.

Jodi Helmer is still giving gardening tips in The Green Year this week. Safe ways to keep your pets from digging in your garden. For dogs, mix Tabasco sauce, garlic, onion, cayenne pepper in a bucket of water. Let it sit for a while and then sprinkle it over the area of the garden that the dogs have been digging.

For cats, who might use your garden as a litter box, toss lemon and orange peels into the garden. Cats don't like citrus and the peels are completely biodegradable and won't harm your plants. Aphids also don't like it. Grind the lemon peel, mix with water and spray on the leaves the bugs are bothering!

I'll be taking Friday off to go back to Kansas City and do research for a story. Have a Happy Week!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Free Mother's Day Cards

Today's freebie comes from Hallmark. You can design your own Mother's Day card and Hallmark will print and send it for you for free! Of course, if Mom is on the computer, the more environmentally friendly thing to do is to send one of the free e-cards available at

This week, I'll continue with green gardening tips from The Green Year. Jodi Helmer suggests using an inch of beer at the bottom of a bowl placed at soil level in your garden to repel slugs. The slugs creep up to the edge, fall in and, well...then you can add the dead slugs to your compost pile!

Friday, May 01, 2009

A Freebie to Help You Lessen Your Cat's Pawprint on the Earth

The Earth Day celebrations continue: Litter-Robot is giving away a new ECO Unit Litter-Robot and Litter-Robot Ramp. Readers can go to and tell us how they and their pet are trying to reduce their environmental impact. All entries must be received by June 1, 2009 and the winner will be chosen at random on June 8, 2009 and announced on the Litter-Robot Blog at

For more information about Litter-Robot’s new ECO Unit made of 100% recycled plastics, go to


How many of you used to get some cut flowers and leave them on the doorstep of your favorite neighbors, and maybe your mother on May Day? In their last years, both my Mom and Godmother recalled how I used to do that as a kid. My mom always had a wealth of flowers from which I could cut.
In celebration of May Day, a tip from The Green Year for today:
"Water your plants first thing in the morning or late in the evening." Helmer says the plants retain moisture better when watered in cooler temps.
Also, watering your plants in the heat of the day presents the chance you might burn them. My mom always used to say too, that watering in the evening causes mold. We've always gotten out early in the morning, and my plants thrive as Mom's did.

Happy May Day and Have a Great Weekend!