Thursday, June 30, 2011

Change the World Wednesday - proudest green achievement

This week's Change the World Wednesday with Reduce Footprints is:

This week we'd like to hear about your proudest "green" achievement. Perhaps you started a compost for the first time or purchased organic food. Maybe you stopped driving a car or added solar panels to your home. It could be as small as carrying a reusable bag or as large as building an energy efficient home. Whatever your proudest Eco-friendly achievement is ... we want to know about it. Please leave details and tips/ideas so that we can all celebrate with you and perhaps try the activity ourselves.

I would have to say that my proudest green achievement is getting my Grandparents to recycle.   Sure, they still don't do it 100% of the time, but they do it more than they used to.   My Grandma will sometimes also save things and wait for me to show up and them she'll be like "Ah-ha! Look at what I'm going to recycle!".  I don't want to say it's a game, but it kind of is.  Whenever I'm at their house if I notice something in the trash that can be recycled, I take it out and give my Grandma "trouble", and if she saves something while I'm over she makes sure that I see it.  I mostly just like that they now think about it and make an effort to recycle.

Also, I have to mention my vegetable garden. It's not doing too great, but I'm trying. I haven't had a vegetable garden since I was young and my Mom would grow tomatoes and I would sometimes water them. So I guess that doesn't really count as me having one when I was  young.   This year I have 4 tomato plants, two strawberry plants, and 1 pepper plant. I attempted lettuce, that didn't work out well. Then I lost the rest of the seeds so I haven't tried it again.  I feel good that I'm even attempting a vegetable garden, no matter how small it is.  We all have to start somewhere don't we?  (It goes without saying that I used all organic soil too.)

 I would mention my blackberry bush, but I've already done a post on that.  I have to admit that I look at it every day though and I can't wait for the blackberries to be ready for picking. They are all reddish/pinkish and I'm enjoying watching the colors change as the fruit ripens.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Catalog Choice - I'm loving it

Several weeks ago the Change the World Wednesday challenge was on paper usage.  One of the things mentioned was to sign up with catalog choice and start elimination unwanted catalogs in the mail.

Knowing that it would be pretty easy to do this via Catalog Choice I've been making the effort to do so.  So far I only have two catalogs that I've requested to stop being sent to my house via this website.  Two isn't much, but it's better than non.  It's also the only two that we've received. haha!   You need info from the catalog so I can't go in and request ones that I know we sometimes get until after I've received them.

I like that my account shows how much I'm saving by doing this though.  I've saved 1 fully grown tree, 30lbs of greenhouse gas, 71lbs of solid waste, and 11 gallons of water.  Not to bad, so far.

I haven't just stopped at Catalog Choice though. I took it a step further.  We receive an alumni magazine for the college where Husband got his MBA.  He doesn't read it. He doesn't even look at it.  When I do the bills on the weekend I put it right in the recycle bin.  Well, we received it on Monday and on Tuesday I went online and couldn't find a spot to elect not to receive.  So I called the number and requested they stop.  They said they would remove his name from the list, but we'll see.  Considering how common his name is and they didn't get my address, I'm not so sure this will really happen. I figure I'll give it till the end of the year (I know most places create lists well in advance) and if we are still receiving them I'll try it again.

I also contacted a company that constantly (as in once a week) sends us mail begging for cash/donations.  This is a charity that we both agree is worth supporting and we do donate money, but we do it online.  So I went to their website and filled out a contact form asking them to remove us from their list since we donate online and don't want the waste of receiving the mailings.  I received a personal reply within 24 hours saying they would remove us from the mailing list.

I'm feeling pretty good about this!  I know it can be time consuming doing all this, but if I remember to save the mail as it comes and do it when I have time, little by little I'll be able to get the junk mail to a minimum.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Change the World Wednesday - Take Action

This week, become an activist. Please take some kind of action (letter writing, phone calls, petitions, etc.) designed to encourage a business, community, government, etc. to make a positive change. Need some ideas? Here you go:

  • Browse the Care2 Take Action site, HERE, and sign a petition or in some way get involved.
  • Write an email/letter to a local restaurant that uses Styrofoam containers for take-away food and politely ask them to consider an Eco-friendly alternative.
  • Visit Oceana HERE and take action to protect our oceans.
  • Contact your community (apartment managers, homeowner's association, etc.) and suggest "green" improvements to your area.
  • Choose from one of these 10 Actions to save the whales.
  • If you attend a festival, look for ways that the function could be greener and then write to the organizers with suggestions.
  • Contact your child's school with ideas on how the school can be greener.
  • Find out what you can do to help end nuclear threats HERE (thanks, Mrs. Green)
  • Check out the opportunities to take action from the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council)HERE. (Thanks to EcoGrrl for reminding me about this one).
The idea, here, is to take action and make your voice heard on behalf of the environment and all of it's inhabitants. And, of course, we want to hear about it so please share your experience, links, etc.

Or ...

If you are already taking action, we'd like tips on how to make it successful and we'd like to hear about your lessons learned.

I took the easy way out and I looked around on the Care2 Take Action website.  Several of the other options don't really apply to me, and the ones that did (such as writing an email or letter) just didn't appeal to me. I have a feeling, though, that now that the idea is in my head the next time I notice a restaurant use a non-recyclable container for food I'll probably send an email.

In the past, I have written such an email though.  I had a giftcode for an online merchant and ordered some bamboo towels.  The towels came in plastic wrap.  I emailed the company the same day the item arrived and expressed my concern that their eco-friendly item was being packaged in a non-eco friendly way.  I'm happy to report that I heard back from them within a couple of days.  The response didn't sound like a standard response either, they thanked me for making the suggestion and said they would look in to it.  Will they?  Who knows, but it did get at least one person thinking.

Back to the Care2 Take Action website.  I first clicked on health to see what I could find and wouldn't you know it, there was a petition for a matter in my home state.  It was a matter I feel very strongly about so after reading a bit more about it I went ahead and signed the petition.  I'm not going to say which one it was because it's of such a subject that people are either for or against and it's not something I publicly talk about because it can really cause some disagreements.

I also checked out the corporate responsibility section and after reading several that caught my interest I signed those too.

One of the other areas that don't really apply to me is contacting your community, in my case a home owners association, and suggest green changes.  Ok, I suppose it could apply to me but I wouldn't know where to begin, as in I don't know what to suggest. However I bring this up because my husband and I have been going around and around with our home owners association for a couple months now regarding solar panels.  We want them.  They would have to be on the South side of our roof and for us that's the side facing the street.  I contacted the association to try and get this approved.  One lady is for it and doesn't see it being an issue.  One of the guys works in government and he's been really hard to get in touch with.  He thinks it's a good idea but is more worried about how it would look and how it would effect the neighborhood in that regard.   When they came to the house several weeks ago to discuss it, again, I said that I felt this is the way things were going and soon others would want it as well. I said that I felt this would be a good selling point if we were to move.  I also said I think people would notice it as first but then it would just seem "normal".  

So far..I haven't heard back from them.  I give them the rest of the week and then they get another pestering email from me.   Fingers crossed they will approve it and we can move forward actually getting an official bid.  The company we are working with don't want to move forward with drawing up a proposal, it's labor intensive, until we know for sure we could do it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Change the World Wednesday - Take out versus homemade

There are actually two "up the ante" challenges this week..let's see how well I can do.

This week, make your coffee or tea at home. Getting coffee/tea out every day not only costs a lot but also generates a lot of waste. Make it at home instead. And don't forget ... both coffee grounds and tea leaves are great in the compost bin.

Or ...

If you don't drink these beverages or always drink them at home, choose one other food or beverage, which you typically buy at either a restaurant or grocery store, and make it yourself at home. And, of course, we'd like to hear all about it!

Or, if you're a Superstar, accept the "Up The Ante" challenge ...

Our bloggy friend, What A Card, is upping the ante on this challenge. She says, "Use the money you save by not going out for coffee/tea for some environmentally-friendly purpose. I use the money I saved so we could afford to switch to organic milk." Great challenge, WAC!

Or, wanna reach Super-Superstar status? Accept a second "Up The Ante" challenge ...

Whoops - this idea actually came from @CoffeeContessa... not Jessica (thanks, Jessica for pointing that out). So, here's what @CoffeeContessa says "I'll up the ante and only brew organic certified!" Okay ... who's gonna take on this challenge?

I honestly feel like Husband and I are the only ones who don't drink coffee or tea.   That makes the first part of this challenge and the second "up the ante" challenge a piece of cake.  Don't buy coffee or tea on the run? Done!  Only brew certified organic..sure..I won't buy the non-organic stuff!

So I suppose I'll take on the 2nd challenge and the second "up the ante" challenge.   What do I normally buy that I could make at home?  And what could I do with the money saved by doing so?   Well, this is actually something I'm trying to do.  I've already switched to making my own croutons instead of buying croutons.  We make our own spaghetti sauce, chili, and dinner rolls ( can make these ahead of time and freeze them, then only heat up what you want for dinner that night).  

Here's what I'm going to do.  I already make one of my salad dressings from scratch.  However there is one other one that I love and buy. It's called Garlic Expressions.  I love garlic so of course the first time I noticed this one I had to try it. I've been in love with it ever since.   I don't feel bad buying it because the list of ingredients is short and basic.  However, at almost $4 a bottle, I feel it's expensive.   So..I'm going to take on this challenge by attempting to make this myself.   I'm off to search for a similar recipe online and I'll probably buy ingredients tonight since I'm doing the grocery shopping on my way home from work.

Another thing, since the goal was to reduce your drink waste, that I want to mention is sports drinks.  I workout a lot yet I refuse to by individual sports drinks because of the waste.  Instead, I have found several brands that offer tabs.  You're familiar with Airborne and how it comes in a tab that you dissolve in water? Same concept. It's a tab that you just add to your own bottle with your own water.  I personally like GU better than the Nuun.  I tried lemon-lime GU and Orange Nuun. The Nuun tasted like Airborne, yuck.  I'm going to give Nuun another try though, just a different flavor.  I believe there were 12 tablets in the Nuun and only 10 in the GU container.  Sure, I'm still buying something that has to be thrown away or recycled (although I know the Nuun container did not have a recycle sign on it) but instead of buying 10-12 containers I'm buying one.

As for the second challenge, I suppose I already do this to a point.  I've slowly been changing our food choices to organic.  I'm not 100% there but I'm getting there.  It's a slow process since it's more expensive. I feel like I need to do a little at a time and get used to the increase in cost, then work on cooking more from scratch, then buy more organic etc.  For me the two go hand in hand.

Oh..and I did search for a recipe and here's the one I plan to try:
1/4 cup pure apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil or other cold pressed oil 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
one or more cloves of garlic, crushed, chopped or sliced

What I'm going to do is take this recipe to the store with me, but also look at the ingredient list of the dressing I like.  I might end up modifying ingredients based on that.   I'll be sure to do an update post. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Get Fit Monday - a workout week in review

It's been awhile since I updated you on my weekly activities.  I've been making some changes to my routine, adding in a bit more cross-training and a few extra workouts.  I switched up my routine again this past week and I think it worked out really well for me.

My workout week starts on Tuesday.  Tuesday morning I get up at 4:50am in order to get to the gym for a 5:30 barbell strength class.  I am loving this class. It's very hard, it hits all the major muscle groups, and it's fun.  Tuesday night I've been participating in Big River Running's speedwork sessions.  They are hard but I love the structure of it.

Wednesday nights I'm starting to meet up with another runner for a hot evening run. It's the worst time of the day to run but we both want to run with somebody because 1)it's fun and 2)it keeps us motivated.   This past week we did just under 3 miles.

Thursdays I get up at 5:30am for a morning run, usually 4 miles.  I then take a yoga class at 7:15pm.  The instructor is a bit's definitely a different type of yoga than I'm used to.  I like it..I think I just need to get used to it.

Friday's I get up at 4:50am for a 5:30 spin class.  I'm loving the spin class! It's so hard, I really push myself, but it's so much fun.  I love that it's a great workout and it's something different from running.  A girl just needs to mix it up sometimes.

Saturday is my swim day.  This is the workout I'm the worst at but it just takes practice right?  This past week I ended up doing a total of 500 yards but I had to take a lot of rests, usually after only going one length.  I only did 8 full laps of freestyle. I know I need to increase that but I'm happy that I did more laps with modified breaststroke and other swimming forms.

Sundays are my long run days.  The last two weekends I've run with a group of other runners and I love it. It's just more enjoyable running with others.  This week my goal was 8 miles but I decided to do two full loops of the course we run, which is 9 miles. I could have stopped at 8 but when I hit 8 I knew it wasn't much further to the cars and I felt like I could do more. I'm so happy with this!  It feels good to get in that many miles.  I have switched completely to a minimalist shoe now and this is the furthest I've gone in them.  My calves are still sore and I doubt I could have done much more since they were really hurting that last mile, but I'm glad I stuck with it.

Monday, today, is my rest day.  Ah....I love rest days. I feel it is well deserved this week.  

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Oh blackberries, I can't wait to eat you

Last year my sister gave me 2 clippings from her blackberry bushes.  I got a totally of 3 blackberries from them, but that was ok. I didn't expect to get any because I had planted them that Spring.   This year the two bushes have taken off!  I can't believe how many blooms I had and now how many fruits I have.  I'm really looking forward to eating fresh blackberries that I know are free from chemicals (and free in general since I didn't pay for the plants nor do I spend any money on the upkeep of them).  I'm looking forward to freezing those I can't eat before they go bad for future smoothies..and blackberry cobblers.

Here's what the blackberry busy looked like last weekend, look at all those white blooms (ok so some of them are about gone but still)! (if you want to see a bigger image, click on the pictures)

Here's what it looks like this weekend, barely any blooms.

But wait..instead of blooms I have fruit!   

And, as you may have noticed, instead of using an arbor or something else for the vines to climb on, I'm using my fence.  My plan, and seeing how much it's grown I can see this really happening, is to have it take over the fence. haha!  Not only will this provide us with some privacy that we are wanting but it will provide me with lots of yummy fruit.  I'm going to have to see if my sister has raspberries. It would be nice to have raspberries too.   I worry about the deer eating the fruit, but we'll have to see what happens.  there isn't really a way to keep them out since this fence is only around the pool and the rest of the yard isn't fenced in.  Husband said he saw a chipmunk eating one but if the deer stay away and the chipmunks and rabbits only eat the fruits at the bottom, I'll consider this a success.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Change the World Wednesday - paper use

I'm back with another edition of Change the World Wednesday hosted by Reduce Footprints.  Here is the challenge this week:

This week, lets reduce the amount of paper we use. Please choose at least one of the following actions and accomplish it (take on all of them to be a true Eco-superstar).
  • Use no more than 6 squares of toilet paper per bathroom trip.
  • If given the option, choose not to have receipts printed out.
  • If you must print things out, print on both sides of the paper (try to avoid printing by saving a file electronically instead).
  • Read the newspaper online rather than buy a paper copy.
  • Use cloth napkins and towels rather than the paper varieties.
  • Opt for reusable plates rather than paper plates.

Or ...

If you're already doing the above, please come up with at least one other way to save paper and share it with us.

UP THE ANTE (a new feature)
  • Jessica takes on this challenge, especially the toilet paper part, and raises us one (or in this case, decreases us one) ... she's going to use only 5 squares per trip. Who's up for Jessica's challenge?

Well..I kinda do a lot of this already.   I'll go through some of the stuff I do though and maybe it will be something new to you.

1)Use no more than 6 squares of toilet paper per bathroom trip or if you take on Jessica - use no more than 5.   Honestly, I don't think I use much but I don't know how much. I started to try and lesson the amount used per trip earlier in the year when I thought we were going through it faster than we should.  I'm going to be extra attentive to just how many squares I'm using now though and try to keep it to 5.

2) Receipts - If I'm given the option I always choose not to have a receipt printed.  There are some stores that will print a receipt and ask if I want it, and I usually say no. However, I noticed they just throw it away. So I'm trying to say yes in those instances so that I can at least take it home and recycle it.

3) If printing something on the pc..print on both sides.   I can't say that I select dual-sided copies a lot however if I'm finished with a piece of paper and only one side is used I'll either put it in a stack and print on the opposite side at home or at work I save it and use it for scrap paper.  So eventually both sides do end up being used.  I also save a lot of files as PDF's instead of printing.  I do this both at work and at home.  I email items instead of faxing as often as possible also.  At work we have our faxes actually being saved as a pdf file and going to a shared drive.  Then the files are emailed to the correct individual instead of being printed (although I have a feeling a lot of people still print them out).

4) I definitely plan to visit two of these sites to try and minimize the catalogs arriving at our house.  We don't have many, but some.   In fact, we have some being sent to our house in my mother-in-law's name. Not sure how that happened..but I don't like it since I'll never order from them.  I actually looked up one company only and couldn't find a way to opt-out so I contacted their customer service via chat.  They took our address of of the mailing list.  I figure if I need to save the catalogs and do that for all when I have time, then so be it.

5) I only get the Sunday copy and that's for'll still get it but it's only once per week. I then take the paper to a school or church where it can be recycled and they get money towards the school/church.

6) I keep meaning to make cloth napkins and never taking the time to do it.  Recently I've just put out an extra towel and I use that instead of a napkin in the kitchen.  We rarely use paper towels, I use rags to clean up any mess.  We basically only use them to clean up any dog accidents in the house.

7) I always use re-usable plates. I have the paper variety because I basically got them for free.  I figure this way I have them as a back-up if needed.  I made sure to have enough plates for all of my immediate family though. since I do all of I have a recommendation as to what others could do?  Here's a tip I learned it from a different CTTW poster.  Instead of using a new piece of paper for a list or for notes, use an envelope.  A used envelope.  Maybe an envelope that was mailed to you with a bill.  An envelope that was going to end up in the recycle bin anyway.

That's it..I'm out of ideas. haha!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Faster than a speeding bullet...

Okay, so I'm NOT faster than a speeding bullet.  But I'm SO fast that I'm blurry in the above picture.  Okay, so while I'm blurry it's not because I'm so fast but because it was taken with Husband's cell phone and therefore not a good camera.  Yes, that's me in the pink top crossing the finish line.

This photo was taken last night at my Tuesday speedwork session.  Yes..I'm taking speedwork sessions for the summer to improve my pace.  As my husband would say: you're weird.   Yesterday's workout was one mile timed.  It's not your goal race pace, it's not your current pace. It's one mile as fast as you can do it.   If you can see it in the picture above, I crossed the line at 7:13.  While I'm sure that's not the fastest I've ever run a mile ( I do believe I completed a 5k race in highschool in 21 something) but it's the fastest I've ever run a mile as an adult.  It felt AWESOME.  Ok, so I felt horrible running because I was really pushing myself, but once I finished I felt awesome.  If I did it again. I'm sure I could do it even faster, now that I've finished I feel like I could have surged sooner at the last lap.

Husband and Myla decided to go with me last night since it was only one mile.  The speedwork sessions are being held at a local highschool and we pulled into the parking area and Husband says "What are all these cars doing here?"  To which I responded, "uh..speedwork session."   He made the comment that he didn't expect so many people.  After a slight pause I said "What? You thought it would be me and 10 other people?" and I laughed because I thought I was making a joke.  He said he thought there would be 20. haha!

After I did my run we watched the two faster groups do their runs. I'm not sure Husband wanted to stay but Myla was having a good time and I wanted to see how fast the other runners could go.  When we got back in the car to head home, Husband got in the car, closed the door and said "You runners are weird."
Well..I have to agree, we are a special group.

Today is National Running Day.  While I didn't get in a run today (spin class this morning) I at least celebrated by getting in this post.  Happy running!