1. Seed Saving

    Posted on July 26, 2012 by Howling Hill

    The Greenists are on vacation.  Please enjoy this recycled post.

    One bonuses of participating in any CSA is the availability and access to seeds that are not genetically modified or altered. Thus, I have been seeding some of the bounty from my CSA. So far I have two types of tomato (above), yellow watermelon, honeydew melon, and a couple different types of squash and peppers. All were locally and organically grown here in New Hampshire. I also have all the seeds I ordered earlier this year but didn’t plant because of The Move to Boston.

    Seeding the vegetables and fruits is an excellent way to preserve harvests, genetic diversity, and to save some money.

    To seed a vegetable isn’t particularly difficult. Most times all one has to do is put seeds aside — making sure each seed is devoid of any vegetable matter — when cutting one open. Tomatoes, however, can pose a particular challenge for first time seeders. It took me a while to learn the process. I share it with you my fellow Greenists because I’m awesome (and contrite =)

    First, cut open the tomato(es) and scoop out the seeds. Pull as much of the goo away from the seeds as possible. Then take the seeds and put them in a glass jar (plastic would work but then you get the plastic chemicals leeching problem…) with some water. Let the seeds sit in the sun for a week or two until the goo pulls away from the seeds and the seeds sink to the bottom. Go ahead and agitate the jar on occasion. Once the seeds have separated from the goo, carefully pour out the water and place the seeds on a towel to dry out. Once dry, put them in a bag for the next year after labeling the seeds. If you have more than one variety you are seeding this is very important unless you like surprises.

    Knowing Wolf and I are moving from our beloved Howling Hill to the urban jungle makes my soul cringe. I am not a city person but I will adapt as I have to other changes. I am, after all, human. And humans adapt. And so do plants. We all adapt quite well, actually. I assume that’s why we (plants, animals, and everything else) are alive today: because we adapted to the changes and made the best of present conditions. To bring part of my CSA with me is a comfort. To know I can grow some of the lushness of the food I ate this summer is a fantastic way to bring Howling Hill to Boston. It connects me to the land, connects me to Mother Earth, and connects me to the CSA.

    On a completely unrelated note, our well went dry. Follow our waterless journey at Howling Hill.

  2. To Air is Human

    Posted on July 18, 2012 by Mickey

    The Greenists are on vacation.  Please enjoy this recycled post.

    fan 032

    While walking through our apartment complex this morning coming back from a meeting, I made a point of counting all the open windows I saw. It was easy: zero. And no, I wasn’t casing the joint, making notes about which units contained flat-screen TVs and would be easiest to break into (for which reason I’ll exclude all the bottom-floor dwellers from the following discussion.) My interest instead was a result of the perfect open-window weather, 70 and sunny. This is the time of year in this part of the country to air things out, after the pollen has fallen and before the melting heat of summer sets in. Nighttime temperatures have been in the 60s, with daytime highs in the low 80s, and there’s no better time to save some money on your utility bill, which is why it irks me a bit to hear the air conditioners rattling away as I type this.

    It may be true that a programmable thermostat is a great way to save energy, but we shouldn’t forsake logic for the “set it and forget it” mentality (apologies to Ronco.) If you can get your pleasantly cool air straight from the atmosphere around you rather than forcing it through the energy-hogging middleman of the AC, then you should. Open a window and put up a fan. Better still, open windows on two or more sides and let a breeze blow through. I realize that most people are not going to sweat it out like me just to prove a point (especially here in Hotlanta) but surely we can all try and tough it out with no AC in the benign month of May.

    Which brings me to another point: Why, in Atlanta, Georgia of all places, do we build dwellings with windows only on one side that open only from the bottom with no regard to the orientation of the building in relation to the sun? The answer, of course, is air conditioning. Before the advent of AC, homes in warm climes were built with high ceilings, large, abundant windows, and big, friendly porches, the better to take advantage of a passing breeze. Trees were left standing for shade, especially along the south side, and tea was iced. The tea is still iced around here (and instant-cavity sweet) but someone like me is forced to get pretty creative when trying to keep a cave-like apartment cool in the summer, sans AC.

    I realize most people are not going to tough it out when the mercury starts climbing,  growing more determined as the pool of their own salty sweat expands around them, but for those of you who want to give it a try or at least get by with the thermostat set as high as you dare, I posted some tips on this site for staying comfortable in the heat a while back. And if you have any of your own that you’d like to share, let’s see them in the comments.

  3. Green Guilt: Just Let It Go

    Posted on July 12, 2012 by Melissa

    The Greenists are on vacation.  Please enjoy this recycled post.

    Roof over their heads or organic food in their tummies? You know my answer.

    Last night, I threw out a glass spaghetti sauce jar. The day before that, I bought two new Pack & Play sheets (buy one, get one – plus I had a 20% off coupon) without checking Craigslist first. Last week when I went grocery shopping, I didn’t buy any organic food AND I bought generic Dawn instead of my usual Seventh Generation. Oh, and I’m currently using Tide instead of a natural brand of laundry detergent. Are you shocked yet? Gasping for air and shouting to yourself, “And you call yourself a Greenist?” Well, I do call myself a Greenist…and yes, I’m experiencing a lot of green guilt right now – that feeling of I know I can do better. I know I can do more. But allow me to explain . . . It came down to money. My family recently moved to another state and I am currently staying at home with my two children. With our new single salary household, I find myself having to sacrifice some green luxuries. Organic veggies, for example, are typically $1.00-$5.00 more than conventional vegetables. Do I prefer organic food? Yes! I know it is better for my body and for the environment. But I need to watch my spending; I can get more fruits and vegetables if I choose the less expensive alternative. Do I want to pollute with generic dish soap? No way! But how do I explain to my kids that I can’t buy them apple juice because I chose to spend the $3.00 on natural dish soap instead? Not to mention, I hardly ever find coupons for green products in the Sunday paper (search for them on manufacturer’s webpages instead).

    My husband and I were discussing this situation the other night and in my complaints of having to let go of some of my favorite green products (like a $20 baby wash), I accused him of not supporting the green movement. He replied with, “I do support the green movement! But I have to support my family first.” His statement got me thinking about my priorities, the first of which are my children. I want to do all I can to build them a better world – they are the entire reason I became more green in the first place. My husband must have sensed my conflict because he rushed in and pointed out all of the little things we do to help the environment. “We can’t recycle right now. There is no curbside recycling in our new neighborhood and there is a fee to use the recycling center. But you are reusing things more, like the glass sauce and salad dressing containers.” He pointed out a few other things:

    1) If I think I can make it or bake it, I don’t buy it. I’ve been bakinghomemade breads, pitas, bagels, sweets, and tortillas. I’ve been whipping together salad dressings and granola and even made a little homemade peanut butter the other day! So much cheaper, greener (no packaging waste), and tastier! Additionally, now that I’m baking more I’ve been able to eliminate spending on scented soy candles – the house ALWAYS smells like something good! Now, if only I could figure out how to bake Cheerios . . .

    Homemade Amish White Bread

     

    2) We are still using cloth diapers and cloth wipes. I wash them with 1/4 cup of Tide. I’ve found that natural detergents just don’t clean diapers as well as Tide does. Read any diaper board . . . the parents who use natural detergents seem to be continually stripping their diapers and complaining that they still smell after washing – what a waste of water, energy, detergent, time and money.

    3) I stopped buying lotions and creams. Everyone gets to use (or choose not to use) the Coconut Oil now!

    4) The boys share a bath. Not to mention, now that I’m a stay at home Mom, I don’t have the time to take a long shower (if I’m lucky enough to get one at all!).

    5) Now that I’m no longer commuting to work for 1 hour/day, I only need to fill up my gas tank every other week, instead of every week.

    6) All of our dish rags vanished during our move! Instead of buying new ones, I’m knitting rags from leftover cotton yarn from a previous knitting project.

    7) We still rock the reusable shopping bags, napkins, and homemade cleaning products. As well as a lot of other tiny things that might just be making a difference (like using Mason Jars for drinking glasses . . . and for storing homemade jam!).

    Even though I can’t afford to buy a new hybrid or spend $5-6/gallon on organic milk right now (oh, but it tastes so good!), I can still be a Greenist. It’s not my fault that the condo development we are renting in will not allow me to hang a clothesline or compost. I need to shake the green guilt and be proud of what I can do. I can support the green movement and my family – both of them will just have to sacrifice a little bit for now.

  4. The Fruits of Activism

    Posted on July 11, 2012 by Mickey

     The Greenists are on vacation.  Please enjoy this recycled post.

    Two days ago, rambling with a friend along a rocky ridge way off trail in Grand Teton National Park, I had the opportunity, for the second time, to peer down into the upper reaches of Leigh Canyon, a wild place if ever there was one. Though the mouth of the canyon, which pours out into the air-clear waters of Leigh Lake on the floor of Jackson Hole, is only a few miles from the tourist beehive of Jenny Lake, the upper canyon is a place only glimpsed by marmots, adventurous ravens and, rarely, misguided off-duty park rangers.

     

    The first time I had the opportunity to ponder the wildness of Leigh Canyon was three years ago as I made an end-around solo traverse of the head of the canyon on a two night trip. It was my first experience going off-trail in the park that wasn’t for the expressed purpose of getting to the top of a peak, and I was rewarded with near-absolute solitude, the only incursions being the occasional passing of jetliners overhead. As I made my way down the ridge to the low point between the canyon and the Idaho side of the Teton range, I was startled and then awed to see a black bear with a cub close at her heels crossing into the saddle from the west. I’d seen plenty of bears before and I’ve seen a score of them since, but I think it was the coincidence of our crossing paths that amazed me most at the time. Few people ever tread the route I was taking, and I can’t imagine that the bear spends a whole lot of time in the unforgiving environs of the divide, but there we were, each trying to get somewhere a little more pleasant.

    I kept my distance, silently watching the pair as they carefully stepped their way down the steep, loose, rocky slope into Leigh Canyon, probably to see how the forage was down around Mink Lake, knowing there would be no bothersome, picture-snapping humans at that remote locale. I followed their progress until they were too small to pick out among the boulders far below, and then I too continued on my way to finding my own place to eat and lay down for the night.

    Tuesday, as I reflected back on the experience from very near the same location, it occurred to me that it may never have happened if not for the commitment of a few visionary people long before the term environmentalist was even coined. Eighty years ago John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Horace Albright and others created this park through sheer will and much political and financial wrangling. If not for their efforts, the unspoiled places in the park like Leigh Canyon could very well have ended up hosting a ski area, a highway or even a strip mine. Instead of watching a couple of bears cross the divide, I could have enjoyed the whine and dust of a swarm of ATVs. Thanks to the idea of conservation, the bear and I both have a place to go to see things as they were, and as they always should be.

  5. Where the Deer and the Antelope (and I) Play

    Posted on July 3, 2012 by Mickey

     

    The Greenists are on vacation.  Please enjoy this recycled post!

    I have often boiled down my love of the American west to one sentence: I need a big backyard. Of course, in my case this has nothing to do with any sort of desire for a lavish hot tub-waterfall-swimming pool combo or my own personal putting green. The backyard I refer to are the millions of acres of public lands that make up the western US. Nothing less will do. Read more…

  6. Uses for Leftover Coffee

    Posted on June 15, 2012 by Allie


    We’re pretty good at not wasting coffee around here. We make the same amount every day and most of the time, there’s only a teeny little splash left in the pot by the next morning. But, occasionally our coffee drinking habits shift slightly and we end up with extra coffee. Then I usually  run out to the garden with the coffee pot and water my sad little blueberry plants.

    Blueberries like acid, our soil isn’t very acidic, and our blueberry plants look a bit humiliated. They always perk up considerably after a cup of joe.

    If I know early on in the day that we won’t be getting around to drinking all the coffee I’ve made, I pour it in a jar and store it in the refrigerator for iced coffee. Or, I pour it in an ice cube tray to make coffee ice cubes. Perfect for making iced coffee cold without watering it down.

    Way back in 2007, I gave you some suggestions for using coffee grounds for everything from deodorizing your hands after chopping onions to scrubbing pots and pans. And we’ve recommended coffee grounds as a room freshener.

    Care2 has many uses for coffee grounds and also recommends using coffee to make scuffs in dark furniture less noticeable. And while I don’t know if it’s bad for the leather in the long term, I once used coffee to hide scuffs on brown shoes when I was in a pinch.

    Lifehacker recommends using leftover coffee to clean the grate on your barbecue grill.

    Small Kitchen College has great ideas for extra coffee, including making kahlua and using it in marinades.

    And make sure you start with greener coffee choices.

  7. A/V Fridays – We Stopped Dreaming (Episode 2)

    Posted on June 8, 2012 by Allie

    Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the most brilliant minds of our time. This video is simply wonderful (and left me a bit choked up). You might want to have a tissue handy, but please, watch this.

  8. Save a Paper, Save a Tree, Save a Dollar

    Posted on May 8, 2012 by Ashley S

    Asking a writer/law student how to use less paper is like asking a great white shark how to adhere to a strict vegetarian diet, but I’ll do my best. There are a few basic uses of paper and a few different techniques to reduce those uses (don’t worry I won’t be asking you to switch to single-ply toilet paper or anything).

    Writing Paper

    I love writing paper. There’s nothing like the convenience of grabbing a notebook or a piece of loose leaf paper and scribbling down my latest brilliant (or not-so-brilliant) thought.

    Unfortunately, I’m thinking my way to a pulverized tree. According to the website Conservatree, each tree can yield just over 8,000 sheets of paper. That’s 16 reams of paper or 80-100 sheet notebooks. Maybe that sounds like a lot of paper to you, but to me, that sounds like a productive week. Luckily for me, and the trees, many of the places I write for, both academically and professionally, will allow me to fileshare and submit my work digitally.

    Even if you’re not much of a typist or if you need to use sketches and figures in your writing, a good tablet computer with a stylus will let you write freehand on the touch screen itself, saving paper and giving you the benefit of spell check (woohoo!) while you are working. For those occasions where you absolutely must use paper, paying a few extra cents and getting the stuff that’s recycled can help with your eco-guilt.

    Billing Statements

    Okay, chances are you don’t get 8,000 billing statements in a given year, but if you put together yours with your neighbors, coworkers and friends, we’re probably getting into tree-saving territory. Now that just about every company offers paperless billing, you have the option to save those trees, as long as you’re responsible enough to keep an eye on your bank account without those bills to remind you when money is being deducted.

    There are other benefits to paperless billing, too. Sometimes companies will offer you an incentive like a gift card or sweepstakes entry for going paperless. You also get to save postage and checks, and save yourself the problems you would incur if a statement were to be lost in the mail. Also, as the Little Green Blog points out, you’ll have a much slimmer file cabinet.

    Other Paper Products

    Okay, as I said, I don’t expect you to go without toilet paper; heck I’m not even going to ask you to go to cloth diapers (although you would save a lot of landfill space).

    Let’s take a look at paper towels, though. Do you really need to use a paper towel for every spill? Wouldn’t a nice reusable washcloth be just as good, or better? Again, you’ll save a few bucks, too, as all those rolls of paper towels start to add up in cost. If you must use paper towels, there are recycled options available.

    Saving trees doesn’t have to be painful, and it can really make you feel good about yourself and what you’re doing for the environment. Using options besides paper, or using recycled paper, can make a big impact on your environmental footprint.

    Best of all, cutting down on paper use can sometimes help you to save the most important paper of all–the green kind with pictures of presidents on it.

  9. The Beauty of Darkness

    Posted on April 25, 2012 by Courtney

    Please welcome today’s guest poster, Jessica Arinella,  creator/writer/producer of the What You Can Do series

    Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/blyzz/4146474229/?q=night%20sky

    On my quest to discover one-minute ways to change the world with the What You Can Do series, I have been fortunate to meet many inspiring people. On a trip to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, I learned the importance of protecting the night sky from Dark Ranger Kevin Poe, also known as a “sworn enemy of light pollution”. We all know that sustainable living is critical to fight climate change, but many people don’t realize that the brightening of the night sky is more than an aesthetic issue. Losing the darkness of night affects wildlife, human health and contributes to global warming.

    The International Dark Sky Association defines light pollution as “any adverse effect of manmade light”. Below are some surprising facts about light pollution and one-minute ways to help preserve the beauty of the night.   Read more…

  10. Put an End to Junk Mail

    Posted on April 11, 2012 by Courtney

    Image credit: http://evainathens.blogspot.com/

    I don’t know about you, but at my home, we get a lot of junk mail. Sale papers, catalogs for stores I don’t shop, letters asking for donations, and the worst offenders — credit card companies — clog my mailbox on a near-daily basis. Each U.S. household receives close to 1,000 pieces of direct mail a year; 44% of it is never opened and 62% of it is not recycled. That equals 10 billion pounds of solid waste annually.

    While I toss all my unwanted mail into the recycling bin, I’d much prefer not to get it in the first place. Wouldn’t it be great if you could get yourself on a no-junk-mail list, kind of like the no-call list that prevents telemarketers from calling you?   Read more…

Tip of the Day

If It Doesn’t Smell, Don’t Wash It

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According to Real Simple, if every American made an effort to launder less — cutting out just one load of laundry a week per household — we’d save enough water to fill seven million swimming pools each year.

So if it looks clean, and it smells clean, call it clean and wear it again. Consider hanging worn clothes out on your clothesline to freshen them up between wearings.


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