Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Follow me to my new blog,

Writers often take creative turns to renew their souls and I'm no different. I've launched a new project, Living Large in our Little House, which will deal with living green, but also describe our lives in our small house here in the Ozarks.
I hope you will continue to join me there - remember to bookmark it and sign up for the RSS feed!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Identify with Getting Tags - at the Very Least!

Jodi Helmer points out in her book, "The Green Year" that when a pet is lost, it takes a lot of resources to look for it. You drive around endlessly looking, using gas and putting carbon into the environment. You have fliers printed and posted everywhere. Losing a pet isn't just hard on the environment, it's very hard on you mentally as well. In 1994, we left for a weekend away and one of my dear little Maltese, Ana, got spooked by some fireworks and bolted from a relative who was caring for her. We never saw her again.
I looked for her for 6 months before my husband said it was finally time to give up the search. To this day, I sometimes think about Ana and hope that whatever happened to her, it wasn't awful.
Helmer suggests making sure all of your pets are wearing tags. Even better, go the distance and have your dog and/or kitties microchipped. This technology is growing and now most shelters scan for chips when lost pets are found. If you do this, as with putting tags on them, make sure to keep the info current if you move. A dog in Australia was recently found 2,000 miles from its' owners after 8 years - thanks to a microchip!
So, be nice to the environment -as well as to your pet and yourself - by keeping track of them!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Back to School...on the Green Bus

Jodi Helmer points out in her book, "The Green Year" that it's back to school time, but that doesn't mean we have to quit trying to go green. Many kids are more environmentally aware than their parents these days and want to do all they can to help the planet. If they're into the environment, here's some ways to point out that you're on board the "green" bus:

*Look for used school supplies. Go through all of the stuff from last year (having the kids help) to figure out what can be reused. Buy recycled paper with as little packaging as possible and buy in bulk. Shop for used text books.

*Research the most eco-friendly computers. Laptops are more energy efficient. Find the ones with the Energy Star seal.

*Go for the Number 2 pencils. Helmer says in her book that while most refillable things are more eco-friendly, that pencils are one of the exceptions. Why? refillable pencils are made of plastic - using resources to make them - and they eventually end up in the landfill. Wooden pencils don't end up in the landfill and are virtually waste-free!

*Shop online for back to school clothes. If you can find quality recycled clothes your children will wear, it will help save money too!

*Leaving notes for your kids on paper is wasteful. Get a dry erase whiteboard to post in the kitchen or other family-oriented room where you can leave each other notes.

*Find eco-friendly ways to commute to and from school. A friend of mine told me the other day she can't believe the lines and lines of SUV's outside her sons' school - and most of them are from her own neighborhood and they only live a block away! If it's safe and you live close enough, encourage your kids to walk, ride their bike or skateboard. If not, ride the bus - and if you must taxi them to school, carpool and save resources.

Have fun preparing for another year of school!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wellness is the Key

I had to make a stop at Wal-Mart yesterday while on an errand and saw two men in the line at the registers buying cheap store brand dog food for their pets. I wanted to go up and ask them if they knew what was in that stuff.
While I know the economy is tight and everyone is pinching pennies, now is not the time to go cheap on the pet food. Research has shown that pets on higher quality diets have fewer vet bills - and live longer.
To me, it's all about the wellness of our pets.
During Read the Label Week last week, I noted how disappointed I was in the dog food we were feeding our dogs. We were feeding a premium price for the food, which I had researched years ago when our first rescue, Hershey, came to live with us. However, when I read the label to the dry food, by-products were the first ingredient, meaning that unknown body parts and organs was the main ingredient, rather than a pure protein source such as meat.
We actually began researching new foods a few weeks ago. I've come to the conclusion, that right now, Wellness brand food, which can be found in Petco (We don't have any other large chain pet supply stores), is one of the best on the market now. Their website, says that their products are "Highly Digestible, Beneficial, Human-Grade Ingredients."
There are several feeding options from all protein foods to ones that contain some grains, although meat is always the main ingredient.
Their Core mix for example, lists deboned turkey and deboned chicken as the first two ingredients.
Their canned food is of similar quality.
The dogs seem to vote for it. We've been slowly switching them now for 2 weeks from the old diet by mixing a little more of the Wellness brand in each day. They did fine yesterday evening on the Wellness brand alone, so it looks like we're there.
My husband thought I was a little overzealous when I said their coats even looked and felt better - and our 10-11 year old Rot/German Shepherd mix, Emma, is even acting friskier. However, a neighbor who hasn't seen them in about a month confirmed my observations yesterday.
I learned from a nutrition expert that pets on a dry diet - even high quality ones - should really have canned food mixed with their diets at least 2-3 times a week. The only incident we had in the transition was that on the first day of canned food, Dakota, our wiener/Beagle, got sick. She tends to scarf her canned food though, so we suspect she ate too fast - she's done fine since.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Well, What's Keeping us From Testing our Well Water?
When we first built our house here in the Ozark Mountains, we couldn't afford to have a well dug, so we paid a water company to haul it in by truck. When we sold our house in KC, the first thing we did was put in a well. However, privately owned wells are not tested by the state and we have no idea the quality of the ground water the company actually hit.
When we first drank it, the water tasted like metal, so we decided not to drink it until we had it tested. So, what's been keeping us? Seems we always have someplace else to put $40 this year. Still, buying bottled water is not only expensive, but bad for the environment, so we resolved this week to finally use the test we picked up from the county and find out if the water will kill us.
Our decision comes as it was reported that overall, bottled water sales are down. We do turn the bottles in for recycling, but plastic is the worst thing for the earth when it is in production and uses resources best used someplace else.
I'll report back when the tests come in...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Is Getting Rid of the Germs Really Worth It?

I have severe allergies and if my allergies and sinuses are giving me problems, I used to tend to develop a lot of colds. So, I started using anti-bacterial soap. The problem is that some of the ingredients are also known to cause cancer. Read the labels on your soap, do your homework on the ingredient list. I think you'll be surprised - and realize that getting rid of a few germs isn't worth the risk.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Animal By-Product is What, Exactly?

When we got our first rescue, Hershey, a miniature Doxie back in 1996, she came with a bowl, leash, vet records and, even to our horror, those meat-like food products that kind of resembles hamburger, but has enough red dye in it to turn dog poop colors. I did my homework on pet food and chose a premium brand sold only in vet's offices. Eventually, all my dogs and cats got put on that food.
The thing I didn't realize is that I had to continue to do homework. Although this brand of pet food is still sold by vets - and pushed by most - I still should have been reading the label periodically. Somewhere over time, this brand's ingredients changed.
When reading a pet food label, it's a good idea to have some sort of pure meat as the first ingredient - "Beef," "Chicken," "Lamb" or "Whitefish" are the usual suspects.
Only this brand now lists "animal by products" as it's first ingredient and later, some sort of meat "meal." When I compared it to other brands found in a big box store last weekend, the ingredients weren't that much different than other, cheaper brands.
What are animal by-products, exactly?
Trust me, you really don't want to know. Let's just say it's not fit for human consumption.
Animals, including our dogs and cats, need protein, which is the meat, not animal organs, snouts, or other things we typically wouldn't make a staple in our own diets.
Since the big pet food recall two years ago, I've been really too scared to read what my dogs are eating. I've also been a bit concerned as the dogs coats don't seem as soft and shiny, nor have they been as spunky.
Now that I've read the ingredient list, I'm too scared not to pay attention to it.
I've already started investigating other brands of foods. Raw, home prepared diets are the best, but is cost and time prohibitive for most people.
I'll keep you updated as to the brand we choose and how it affects the Fearsome Four here.

Monday, August 10, 2009

You Want to be Scared? Read Ingredient Lists

It's not quite fall or time for Halloween, but if you want a scary experience, start paying attention to what's in the products that you purchase. This week, I will be looking at ingredient lists on some popular products and reporting them here. This is following Jodi Helmer's lead in her book, "The Green Year," which has a partial list of ingredients for popular brands of toothpastes.
Do you know what polyethylene glycol, methylparaben and triclosan are? I don't either, but according to Helmer, they are chemicals which are bad for the environment and could potentially be bad for your health. These chemicals have the potential to cause kidney damage, been linked to breast cancer, as well as suspected of causing birth defects and lowering fertility.
Switching to all natural toothpastes is not only a good option for the environment, but also for your health. These all natural brands contain baking soda, spearmint or tea tree oil. Want a more economical option? Find a do-it-yourself recipe and blend your own!

Friday, August 07, 2009

I Don't Think I can Have my First Love Euthanized in the Cash for Clunkers Program

A few posts back, I expressed concern over the Cash for Clunkers program. I think it's great that we're striving for better fuel efficiency (if we have to stick with automobiles), but I was wondering what happened to all of those old "clunkers" once they were turned in.
Turns out they're euthanized - much like a sick pet. Seriously. a chemical is poured into the running engine and within a few minutes, it locks up and dies. This keeps the gas guzzlers from hitting the road again. Dealers and federally approved salvage yards are allowed to sell anything off of the vehicles but for the engines and drive trains. What's left is smashed to bits.
We Americans have long had a love affair with our cars, and I'm no different. When I was a younger woman, I wanted, more than anything, a "Baby Blazer," those smaller Blazers Chevrolet used to make. In 1988, we bit the bullet and for nearly $400 a month for 4 years, I got one. She was my first automobile love and we still have her. She's been through a pretty bad crash (one of my friends thought I just might kill the person who hit me that morning), an attempt to steal her from the parking lot where I was taking night courses to finish my degree, and my husband has had to put in a new engine. My Baby Blazer and her stereo made the days driving into a job I hated at a company I hated even more, a little more bearable, and the drives home in her helped me de-stress. She taxied our two girls and their friends to volleyball practices, football games and took us on our vacations. When my beloved late mother and I needed to go to the grocery store, or Mom wanted to go to Hobby Lobby (her favorite store), the Baby Blazer got us there. My mom even made a tiny dream catcher for her rear view mirror for safety and luck. In the past two years, she got my husband to and from KC while he commuted back and forth to the Ozarks after we sold our home there.
Today, she rests, most days, in one of our garages. The new car smell has been replaced with that sort of musty, old car smell that upholstery starts emitting, but aside from a couple of little rust spots, she looks much the same as she did the day we drove her off of the new car lot 21 years ago this summer. These days, I happily work from home, but if I need her, she still gets me where I need to go.
I joked on Facebook the other day that she is headed for antique status soon. I've had a sentimental attachment since I bought her. She represents to me attainment of a goal I worked to achieve at another point in my life - and a lot of memories.
No, I don't think I could have her euthanized at this point. She not only means too much to me, but she is still running and I'm not convinced that wasting the trips she has left by turning her into a tiny squashed piece of metal is what's best for the environment. However, I do respect those who can let go and are going for better fuel efficient cars.
Read more about the Cash for Clunkers program:

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Green Gifting

A lot of people I love have birthdays in August, so I have to come up with card and gift ideas. As I've mentioned here before, I can't get over the whole paper card thing, I love the look and feel of sending a "real" card. I know it isn't "Green," but it is my weakness. Being here in Arkansas when most of my loved ones are still in Kansas City - or other parts of the world - I have no choice but to either send paper or e-cards, and while I do send e-cards too, I like to imagine someone going to the mailbox and pulling something tangible out.
Jodi Helmer's recommendation for "The Green Year" is to find "green" presents to give as well. A batch of cookies, or something canned or fresh from the garden. That's a great idea. When I give gifts I do refrain from wrapping paper mostly now and if I can be there in person, I use gift bags, which can be used for years.
Even when gift giving, we can make it green!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Canoeing - a Relaxing and Eco-Friendly Sport

We live in some of the most beautiful country in the nation and when we seek it out, we can usually find something new. This weekend, we went to Buffalo National Park, which has the Buffalo River at its center. A scenic and lovely river that winds through the Ozark Mountains, the waterway was once Ground Zero in a battle over if every river in the country should be dammed. Naturalists won the battle and today, the river is much like it was in the 1930s when the fight began.
We decided to get into canoeing, which is the only boating allowed in the park. The slow rides down the river allows participants to not only enjoy the scenery of the trees and steep bluffs, but encounter wildlife in their natural habitat.
Eco-friendly wasn't exactly at the top of our list when seeking a new hobby, but it certainly is a benefit of canoeing.
Now, just to get into shape so I can help row!