1. The State of My Garden

    Posted on June 29, 2012 by Allie

    In 2007, as a new green blogger, I became a container gardening enthusiast.  I grew tomatoes and cucumbers in whisky barrels on the back patio.  It was small and manageable, and brought me great joy.  Argo stole cucumbers off the vine and would lie in the yard to eat them.

    In 2008, I was just a girl with a shovel and a dream.  I (rather impulsively) dug up a quarter of our yard to start a vegetable garden.  I read as much as I could about planting vegetables and composting and for all my digging and planting and weeding I was handsomely rewarded with tons of peppers, cucumbers, eggplants, and a tomato infestation. It was a bountiful garden, but the damn tomatoes stressed me out.

    In 2009, I started off strong, but by the end of the summer I’d had enough.  I’d sold STAY and spent the whole summer working on my novel.  Gardening made me feel like I was pulled in too many directions. Blight hit my tomatoes, I spent way more money than I got back in crops, and I started to think I should give up gardening.

    So what’s happened since then?  I prioritized.  There’s no real need for me to grow veggies.  Local veggies are cheap and plentiful around here in the summer.  You know what’s not cheap?  Berries.

    Raspberries

    So now my garden consists of strawberries, raspberries and blackberries.

    Strawberries

    They happen to be low maintenance and easy to grow.  And what’s better than waking up in the morning and running out to the garden to pick some berries for cereal?

    Blackberry Bloom

    The birds are thrilled to eat what I don’t harvest, and they’re super easy to freeze if I have time to think about food storage.

    Apple Blossoms

    I also planted a pair of apple.  We haven’t gotten any apples worth eating yet, but J’s grandfather was an apple farmer and it feels like a nice tribute to him.  The blooms are gorgeous in the spring, and the trees are beautiful.

    We also have mint and lavender and a few other herbs growing around the yard as well, but it’s all very simple and easy to care for.

    Lavender

    I have a spot for a lawn chair in the garden.  I like to sit out there and read while the dogs play in the yard, and now the space feels like a sanctuary.  I’m not stressed about tomatoes.  I enjoy what we harvest.  We don’t need to water anything unless we have a heatwave.  Our yard is a pretty and productive place.

    What I’ve learned from gardening is what I’ve learned from going green in general: the most sustainable lifestyle comes from a place of balance.

  2. Voltaic Amp Solar Charger

    Posted on June 28, 2012 by Howling Hill

    When I was in Chicago for the #noNATO protests in May, I learned one very, very important lesson: we must practice what we preach.

    I participated in, and listened to, a number of conversations about moving from dependence on foreign oil, on how to prevent oil drilling in the US, strategies to close nuclear power plants, and to propel the US to move to sustainable methods of energy creation, collection, and distribution. These conversations were had while fighting over outlets to charge our phones and laptops.

    Read more…

  3. New Ride? Donate Your Old Car

    Posted on June 27, 2012 by Courtney

    Please welcome today’s guest poster, Jason.

    Charitable car donation is a great way to help the environment by recycling your unwanted vehicles while simultaneously helping local charities and receiving a tax write off. The way it works is that a local non-profit car donation center will arrange to have your unwanted vehicle (running or not) picked up at no cost to you, recycled, and then donate the proceeds to a local charity. Read more…

  4. 4 Tech Tools That Will Make Your College Experience Greener

    Posted on June 26, 2012 by Courtney

    Please welcome today’s guest poster, Lauren Bailey.

    Whether you’re about to start your first year of college or are already a jaded senior or master’s candidate, there is no better time than the present to make sure you’re doing all you can to match your educational goals with your environmental ones. If you care about preserving the environment and are also a student, there are some special things you can do to lower your environmental impact. Check out these tech tools that will help you make your college experience that much greener:  Read more…

  5. Meatless Mondays: Pasta Primavera

    Posted on June 25, 2012 by Courtney

    Ingredients:

    3 carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips
    2 medium zucchini or 1 large zucchini, cut into thin strips
    2 yellow squash, cut into thin strips
    1 onion, thinly sliced
    1 yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips
    1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
    1/4 cup olive oil
    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs or herbes de Provence
    1 pound farfalle (bowtie pasta)
    15 cherry tomatoes, halved
    1/2 cup grated Parmesan

    Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

    2. On a large heavy baking sheet, toss all of the vegetables with the oil, salt, pepper, and dried herbs to coat. Transfer half of the vegetable mixture to another heavy large baking sheet and arrange evenly over the baking sheets. Bake until the carrots are tender and the vegetables begin to brown, stirring after the first 10 minutes, about 20 minutes total.

    3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

    4. Toss the pasta with the vegetable mixtures in a large bowl to combine. Toss with the cherry tomatoes and enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Season the pasta with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and serve immediately.

    Recipe courtesy of Food Network

  6. Dagoba Organic Chocolate & the Rainforest Alliance

    Posted on June 22, 2012 by Allie

    My world is fueled by chocolate and coffee.  Both are products often cultivated at great expense to people and the environment, so I make an effort to find sustainable companies to support when I vote with my chocolate and coffee buying dollars.

    When I buy chocolate, I aim for quality over quantity.  The awesome thing about really good chocolate is that quality chocolate is satisfying in small amounts.  So while I may pay a little more for a bar of high quality sustainable chocolate,  it lasts longer, and I can curb my cravings with fewer calories.

     Dagoba has been one of my favorite chocolate brands for a long time.  And now Dagoba Chocolate’s full line is being made with cacao from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms.  Dagoba tells me that carrying the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal means:

    • High standards of environmental stewardship throughout the entire process of growing and cultivating cacao
    • Economic sustainability for cacao-producing farms
    • Safe working conditions and fair wages for farm workers
    • Access to housing, education and healthcare for workers and their families.
    And the chocolate is good!  Dagoba sent me samples of their Dark (59% cacao), Milk (37% cacao), and New Moon (74% cacao).  And I’m (ever so slightly) embarrassed to say that I started my reviewing process before I remembered to take a picture.  You’re not surprised, are you?
    Dark chocolate is my vice, and the darker the better, so the New Moon bar was heaven to me!  I like the way Dagoba bars break down into small strips of chocolate.  One or two strips went a long way at satisfying my chocolate craving.  The Dark bar was certainly no slouch, and I like the way the milk chocolate still had a strong chocolate taste and wasn’t too sweet.
    And, since this new partnership extends to all the products in the Dagoba line, it means two of my longtime favorites, xocolatl, and lavender blueberry are also Rainforest Alliance Certified.
    You can find Dagoba Organic Chocolate at Wegmans, Whole Foods, The Fresh Market, Publix, and many other stores, or buy online.

    Dagoba sent me this delicious chocolate to review, but my opinions are my own, and I regularly buy Dagoba chocolate.

     

     

  7. Going Green with Sir Winston Pugsalot

    Posted on June 21, 2012 by Ashley S

    My Poor Baby

    I didn’t exactly plan to start cooking for Sir Winston Pugsalot, but he became really sick about halfway through last school year. I worried that I killed him by feeding him some kind of tainted food or maybe by using clear plastic wrap over opened cans of dog food, but in the end Dr. Paws (our vet) explained that pugs are prone to developing elongated soft palates that can block their throats and cause them to choke and cough up food. Sir WP and I were extremely lucky, as the condition can be corrected by (very expensive) surgery. When I began to choke and cough at the estimated cost of Sir WP’s surgery, Dr. Paws suggested that I try feeding Sir WP a soft, homemade diet and see if it helped.

    When we got home, I scoured the Internet for easy home dog food recipes and ended up with a grocery list of ingredients. And then to my boyfriend’s amusement, I began to cook homemade dog food for Sir WP. While it didn’t happen immediately, Sir WP got better—a lot better. He stopped choking and he had more energy, his eyes brightened and his fur looked better than mine, even after a special hot oil treatment. I discovered, too, that Sir WP and I had stopped supporting some truly cruel and wasteful ways in which commercial dog food is manufactured.

    Benefits of Homemade Doggie Treats

    Unlike commercial dog food—the production of which frequently involves animal abuse, and the ingredients of which are usually subpar—homemade doggie treats are very beneficial for your pooch. These are almost always made of whole ingredients, rather than processed ones, which help to keep your dog svelte and healthy. Additionally, you don’t have to worry about possible contamination as has been evidenced lately with the seemingly never-ending pet food recall.  Finally, when you know exactly what is going into your pup’s system, you also know exactly what isn’t going in—namely, unknown, potentially harmful chemicals.

    Sir WP Follow-Up

    When Sir WP returned for a check-up, we were chastised for the state of Sir WP’s teeth. Unlike human dental insurance plans, which encourage regular oral check-ups, dogs’ dental hygiene is frequently ignored—guilty as charged. I was already making Sir WP’s meals once or twice a month and freezing them, so it wasn’t a huge leap to begin to make homemade dog biscuits designed to be crunchy enough to clean his teeth. He hasn’t expressed his opinion verbally, but his breath has improved and his teeth look a little cleaner.

    Sir WP Dental Balls

    Preheat your oven to 400°F.

    Mix 1/2 cup organic crunchy peanut butter, 1/2 cup organic butter, 2 organic eggs, 3 cups organic rolled oats, 1 cup organic applesauce and 1/2 cup frozen green peas into a paste. Roll into balls and place on nonstick cookie sheet. Flatten balls into a lump with the bottom of a large spoon. Bake until browned, about 6 minutes. Let cool and harden. Store in a cookie jar.

  8. No Yard? No Problem — You Can Still Grow a Great Garden

    Posted on June 20, 2012 by Courtney

    Please welcome today’s guest poster, Jessi.

    There is something to be said about growing, picking, cooking and eating something from your own garden. Unfortunately, not everyone is capable of having a full garden in their back yard. A lack of a back yard does not mean you cannot have a garden; a lack of a back yard means your garden is on a much smaller scale. Small gardens are also a great way to get kids involved in the cycle of growing plants, learning responsibility and healthy eating.

    Commercially, there are several containers for growing your own herbs that are designed for growing in a small, controlled environment. These containers will fit on an average windowsill and herbs growing in these containers need very little care outside of water and sunlight. Herbs also grow continually so you can have fresh herbs all year long; however, be sure to take caution with them in winter especially if you live in an area where snow is prevalent.

    Gardeners interested in growing something larger than herbs should think smarter, not bigger. Various vegetables such as squash, tomatoes, and cucumbers can grow in relatively small areas. While you may need large buckets for adequate space, you can still manage to grow vegetables easily. Small vegetables such as carrots and peppers can grow in cut and well-cleaned bleach jugs. Read more…

  9. Barefoot (Kind Of) and Running

    Posted on June 19, 2012 by Jacob

    Stuff Barefoot Runners Say

    That’s a video by the guys at InvisibleShoe.com, which pokes a little fun at the barefoot running trend. Considering the fact that the company’s entire business is aimed at those barefoot runners, it’s a real sign of a sense of humor. Invisible Shoe sells custom-made running sandals based on the huaraches worn by the Tarahumara of Mexico, who are known for their distance running. In the most basic sense, these are thin soles made from the hard rubber most shoes have for their outsole that are tied to your feet by shoelaces. The idea behind the running sandals is to have the least amount of material on your feet while still acknowledging the fact that flesh and sharp things on the ground don’t get along so well. I’m not going to try to explain them in more detail than that. I don’t think I have the skills. Just go to their site and look for yourself.

    I was given two pair of these a while back by the company to try out. I was interested in barefoot running and thought that these may be some of the greenest shoes possible. The first set was a custom-made set of the 6mm Contact. I followed the instructions on their site to outline my foot on a piece of paper (my foot barely fit given then I’m easily a size 12) and mark where the holes for the string should go before faxing that in. The other set was a make-it-yourself kit for the 4 mm Contacts.

    I’m going to be honest. I haven’t done a darn thing with that make-it-yourself kit. It’s been sitting on my dresser since the package came in the mail. It wouldn’t be fair to Invisible Shoe if I had made them and then reviewed that pair anyway. I have none of the crafting ability that earned our Homo habilis ancestors their scientific name. I have tried out the pre-made sandals however. The only difference between the two sandals is 2mm of thickness. The reason it’s taken me so long to review them is that they came in during the peak of my training for my first half marathon. I just didn’t have the time to take away from my training schedule to try these out for fear of messing with my stride or my leg health. After the half marathon I was focusing on increasing my speed in the 5k distance in order to qualify for a better starting wave in the Peachtree Road Race. Again, I stuck these to the side until I had a break in formal training to really give them a fair shake and that came only recently.

    First, I’m not going to say that these are for everyone. While there seems to be a nearly infinite number of ways of tying the things on, there’s always that part of the string that goes between your toes. Some people have a thing about that, and honestly, I’ve had a little bit of problem with chafing on the side of my toe from the string on my right foot, although the fact that the left has had no problems suggests this is something a little tweaking could solve, assuming that all that’s needed isn’t just letting my foot get used to the shoe. After all, I don’t normally wear flipflops or the like. That section of skin just isn’t used to touching anything.

    Another slight problem is that for the less-than-dexterous like myself, tying these things can be a little difficult. One good thing is that one of the suggested tying methods is for making these sandals slip-ons, which means you’d only have to tie them once. There are, however, some pretty impressive tying methods that turn these into works of art. Me, I’m not that gifted.

    Other than that, I like these. I ran over the rough gravel in my driveway without any discomfort. I got a little sand in there running on our sandy dirt roads, but didn’t have any issues on pavement. There is no cushioning at all here, but your body will likely get used to that if you start off slowly and work your way back up to your current mileage. Also, if you read my post about what to do with your old running shoes, these sandals solve most of that problem. Because they have no cushioning, there’s no reason to dispose of these until you wear a hole in one, which is likely going to take thousands of miles instead of the recommended hundreds of miles you’re supposed to get from normal support running shoes. After that, you can pretty easily recycle these. After all, most of what they’re recycling from your running shoes are the soles. Buying less and recycling more? You can’t get much greener than that.

  10. Meatless Mondays: Spaghetti Squash

    Posted on June 18, 2012 by Courtney

    Who needs pasta for spaghetti? This recipe is low-carb, vegetarian, and delicious!

    Ingredients:

    1 spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
    2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    1 onion, chopped
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
    3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
    3 tablespoons sliced black olives
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

    Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a baking sheet.

    2. Place spaghetti squash cut sides down on the prepared baking sheet, and bake 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a sharp knife can be inserted with only a little resistance. Remove squash from oven, and set aside to cool enough to be easily handled.

    3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute onion in oil until tender. Add garlic, and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, and cook only until tomatoes are warm.

    4. Use a large spoon to scoop the stringy pulp from the squash, and place in a medium bowl. Toss with the sauteed vegetables, feta cheese, olives, and basil. Serve warm.

    Recipe courtesy of All Recipes

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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