Friday, November 4, 2011

I don't know what I think about this carbon footprint reduction list I mean it seems fine at first glance.  What caught me though was the ditch the microwave.

Wait, I'm supposed to ditch the thing that takes up less energy to re-heat my food than the stove? That I don't have to worry about pre-heating?

So I'll stay on the fence about this one.  For what I'm saying above I don't use my micorwave ennough. Yes for a lot of left overs I'll use it, but if I'm re-creating using left overs (Taking something that is saved and making a new meal out of it as opposed to heating it up as it was) I'll use the stove.

Have you seen things on lists that you don't agree with?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Catch 22?

Every year on earth day, or arbor day we are encouraged to plant trees. Green-scaping and green roofs are an innovative and exciting trend that I've seen while stumbling around the internet. 

Something I saw today however may give that pause. This Article seems to believe that trees/vegitation may be  acting as conductors for carbon into the ground, and that the soil is releasing the additional carbon thus making it a recursive cycle.

The main issue I have with the article is that it presents this idea, and then concludes that there are many factors which play into it and scientists still arn't sure how it works, or if this is the case.

My question, are green things acting as filters? or conductors? and even if they are just exacerbating the situation, wouldn't taking more away - since deforestation is seen as a cause for issues- only make matters even worse?

Friday, September 23, 2011


I just picked up, and devoured in one night, the most fantastic book: Made From Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life by Jenna Woginrich. This book is about setting up your own little farm, no matter where you live, and offers stories and practical advice on getting started. It even has some lovely recipies I know I'll be trying out! And it made me want my own chickens and angora bunnies- more than I already did.

When I was a kid, I wanted to live on a farm. My mom had lived on a farm during her first marriage, and my grandparents lived in an old farm house on a lot of land. When I'd visit with the grandparents, I'd have a lot of fun pretending I was a farm kid, feeding the dogs, grinding up scraps of soap for detergent, cracking walnuts and making scrambled eggs. Small things, but enough if you're a child and have imagination.

That desire to have a bit of a farm hasn't really died in me. However, I don't really like the idea of raising animals to eat, or waking up at four in the morning to start chores. So how do you compromise? Homesteading, of course! Where even a happy suburbanite can have a little taste of the farm, enough to perhaps inspire a bit more, but not enough that your entire lifeline is ruined if the weather is bad during the growing season. It's Farming Lite.

And I'm really, really excited about all the possibilities and interest in this topic now. Give me a few years, my own yard, then we'll see.

By the way, Woginrich has her own more than just little homestead that she writes about:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I confess, I do something that really, really disgusts my husband. No, it's not leaving my hair in the drain, drooling on the pillow, or discarding trash everywhere I go (those are all his jobs)- it's something I'm doing to be eco-friendly.

Ever since Jackie got her compost bin, I've been storing kitchen waste in plastic bags in the freezer.

This drives my husband -nuts-. It is his firm belief that trash goes in the trash, and doesn't hang around where you store food you're actually going to eat. Never mind that it doesn't smell, and I keep it in the door so it doesn't get in the way. I empty it at Jackie's every week, and usually even remember to bring the baggies back home with me to reuse. He even likes the idea of composting...

...but he hates seeing the waste!

Well, I'll train him to put the stuff in the freezer eventually, or we'll get our own compost bin. We'll see. We'll see. One step/shade at a time!

Friday, August 5, 2011

For the Charitable...

My father donates to a lot of charities. A lot. Because of his generosity, charities like to send him things in order to bribe him (or guilt him) into sending them more money. They send address labels, pennies, notepads, and calendars. The calendar issue is what I'm going to discuss here. Let's face it, we only need a few (three would be excessive) but we get a lot more than a few. What to do with the excess? Clearly it would be best for everyone concerned if they weren't sent in the first place, but since they are, how can they be disposed of?

Recycling would work, yes... and I hope they all end up there eventually, but reduce and reuse are higher on the list than recycle. So the question is- can we reduce or reuse? Reduce, well, only if charities stop sending. So reuse... or repurpose?

I spent some time the other day pulling all the pages out of a stack that we've accumulated. Then, with glue, I sealed the sides up and left a top flap thus creating- an envelope. There are a myriad of links online on how to make your own homemade envelopes, and they look much nicer than store bought. Now I can send all of my letters (for the rest of my life) using cool looking homemade envelopes.

So, I'm saving money on envelopes, paper that would otherwise have made envelopes, finding a use for that huge stack of calendars, using the address labels, helping the postal service stay in business, and making people I love smile when they get a neat looking letter in the mail. There is no down side to this- save the excessive tedium of tearing all those pages out and doing all the folding, etc. (More tedium than even I enjoy!)

In addition, you can use the preview images on the back cover (pretty pictures!) to make homemade magnets. You can easily pick a sheet of sticky backed magnet sheets at the store. Cut, stick and go. After that, not much is making it to the landfill or the recycling plant!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Summer Begins!

I won't say where, but I will say what. For most of the year, I teach college classes as an Adjunct professor. In English Literature, if I can manage it. What this means is that I'm totally old school. I love sitting down with books (I never intend to own a Kindle, no matter how eco-friendly, thank you!) and a stack of papers and a red pen. One of my favorite times of the school year is the end of a semester/quarter- you know, the same time of year students enjoy. In the few weeks leading up, I imagine all the joy I'll experience when I'm free... and the pile of papers that will be tossed in the recycling bin.

Back in high school, I'd save up all of my school papers and burn them all at the end of the year. While this was very fulfilling, as who doesn't like a big fire?- it wasn't very green. Now that my attention has gone more and more to being concious of the planet, I start daydreaming about just tossing a huge pile of papers into the recycling bin.

Like I said, I'm old school. I like making students turn in hard copies of their homework. I find it easier to focus when I'm sitting at a desk with a pen, instead of sitting at my computer where I can pull up various other windows. This year, between assignments from students who stopped coming to class, my planning notes, and final essays (those that didn't email them to me- see, I did make that allowance for the last essay!) I had a stack of papers probably three inches thick that I tossed in the box.

Well, naturally this led me to wonder what I could to to reduce that. Originally, when I started teaching, I had easy access to printers and copiers, so I handed out a lot more pages than I do now. These days, I post all documents and links to the class website and pull them up on the computer for class- a reduction in paper waste there. I turn off computers and lights when I leave the classroom. I write on both sides of all notepapers that I make plans on before recycling. I tear apart and recycle every part of the notepads I use up. I try hard to make things as green as possible.

Now I just need to force myself to use the computer for all assignments, and I'm thinking I just might. I don't see any way to completely eliminate paper waste from my classes- I'll at least need to have pop quizzes and in-class writing assignments, and working in a computer lab, well, not usually the best environment for having students pay attention, but I can try every semester to have a smaller pile by the end of it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Happy being green?

I ran across this article and don't completely agree with what it is saying.

The article basically states people who go green, by doing things like eating organic food, biking or walking places, turning off lights when leaving the room were overall happier than those who did not.  My first thought is – hey cool! I then step back, remember my college   – high school education  common sense.Correlation does not equal causality.  Just because action a and action b are related does not mean that action a is the reason for action b.

Ok great people who are environmentally conscious in studies appear to be happier than those who aren’t.  Could it be that they also have a different outlook on life to begin with?  Or sure some of those things can raise your happiness level.  Eating healthy and exercising are good things for your body and your body will respond in kind – with more energy.  So in this case it’s taking care of yourself that makes you happy, not going ‘green’.

Also how does one measure happiness?

I in no way mean to discourage doing things environmentally friendly, but I do balk at the idea that going green in and of itself will make you happy. I mean listen to Kermit.  It’s not easy being green ;)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Pests, where do you draw the line? – Carpenter Bees

If the ants weren’t aggravating enough, we’ve got another annoyance on our hands.   As the weather warms up, the urge to get up, get out, and enjoy my backyard grows.  One small issue – or not so small as these are the BIGGEST bees I’ve ever seen.
From what I’ve read, they aren’t anything more than a pest.  The females rarely sting and the males can’t.  Sure, they will eat the wood of things, but they don’t eat enough or quickly enough for there to be real structural damage.  
My husband however,  is NOT a fan of bees.  If one of these guys comes too close or he sees too many of them, he will retreat back inside and I’m left to grab dinner off the grill.  I grew up with apple trees in the back yard and no discernable fear of bees. I will grant, however, that my husband has the right be unnerved.  These  guys are scary.    They are large and the males are territorial, and will buzz around you in strafing runs, hovering a few feet away from you buzzing angrily.   One is bad enough, but I’ve had days where I’ve been out there where there are 2 or 3 around the deck at a time. 

I’m stubborn.  It’s my deck, my home, and they are NOT conscientious tenants.  It had gotten bad enough that I felt in danger of being pushed off my own turf and surrendering the deck to them.  Wait. . what? Surrender.  Never.   
Monday I had a lack of patience and implemented a fix.  As I didn’t have any putty at the time, I used what I did have.  I grabbed the cement mix and started plugging holes.  Once they are plugged in they aren’t supposed to be able to get out!  Wonderful right?
Well I did this right as I got home from work on Monday night.  It was still sunny—what I ended up doing was locking them out of their homes. They were not happy.    Robyn was over that night, we armed ourselves with  spray bottles and a broom.  The bees were going down.
I know the bees just wanted to get home, I know they technically weren’t harming us.  This was an ingrained, instinctual battle for territory.  It was an epic battle, they fought valiantly, we got about 5 of them through the hour or so that came after.   This however wasn’t enough.  I work from home some days, and went to enjoy the deck only to have 3 of these resilient fellows buzzing around throughout the day. 
While out last night I picked up some outdoor putty.  I waited for it to be dark and went and plugged the new holes and the ones I’d missed the day before.  

I don’t think this is over, and I don’t know who will break first.  Will they be trapped inside and will I have gotten them all?  Or will I break and go nope, no more environmentalist give me the Raid and/or call the exterminator.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pests, where do you draw the line? -- Ants

I keep trying to become more conscious, friendlier in my dealings with nature through activities.  There are challenges, and always the question of which is the better fit for the issue occurring.  Recently we’ve had a couple of issues around the house. 
These little buggers are tenacious.  I’m at war with them, territory keeps going back and forth.  About a year ago we came home from a weekend vacation to a full out invasion in the kitchen.  Ants don’t scare me. Growing up I was used to them coming in under the kitchen sink,  randomly –yes, but they never got any further than under the sink.  They were localized, and that was fine – well except the one time they went further and got into the Microwave. . .
They were EVERYWHERE  no central spot, not in an enclosure. They were by the cat food dishes, they were across the room in the dishwasher, they had claimed the counters and were hiding behind the stove.  Not any of these locations were adjoining.   I freaked out, went on a complete cleaning spree.
They came back.  In a way, that was ok,  we found where they were coming in – right next to where the cat food dishes were.  Not a place where we could put a conventional ant trap (cat could get right at it), and for the way the deck and sunroom were added to the house, the ants were already inside where we could put outside perimeter items.
I did some research.  I wanted a way to stop the ants w/o putting harsh chemicals and items that said ‘keep away from children’ right where my *very* curious cat could reach.   Various things stop ants in their tracks,  or at the very least make it hard for them to follow their scouts.  The scouts create a trail for others to follow by scent. Thus anything strong smelling will mess with them and make it a very difficult way for them to go.  Things like Sage and Baby/Talcum powder were recommended.  After a trek out to the grocery store,  I attacked with the talcum powder – possibly over doing it just a mite. 
They stayed away.  They were gone.  Or so I thought.
A little over a year later they were back.   Not so large in number, but they were back.  I swept them up, put them outside, and started looking for where they were coming in.  It wasn’t where they were before that was for sure.    This time it was the door and the window to the deck.  On two different occasions, my husband and I applied the baby powder, even on the wall, and outside the door.
And then there were . . . less.  For a while.   They aren’t coming from the door, at least not in any numbers, but they were once again all over my counters earlier this week.  Sunday night we did a complete clean.  Since then I’ve seen a few. Not in any real numbers – one on the sink, one here or there on a counter.  Just enough to remind me they are still there – somewhere. . .

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Reason Not to Smoke

Okay, so the smoking/not smoking debate isn't usually an issue at the forefront of the whole green mentality. The general viewpoint seems to be that smoking is bad for your health, and people that care about the environment usually also care about themselves, so they don't do it. Easy enough.

Additionally, smoking causes air pollution (contained, perhaps, but it does ruin air quality in an area where there are a lot of smokers) and the cigarette butts tend to end up on the ground as often as in landfills, neither of which is eco-friendly.

But I have to say- smoking has another side effect that I hadn't been aware of until I started getting essays from my students this semester- if you smoke in your house, and print your essay on paper from your house, your essay will reek of smoke. It's absoutely horrid and makes me feel as if the paper has been polluted. I feel bad for those that will end up coming across it during the recycling process.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Yay Earth Day!

Sadly in the past week or so I've been bad, and that's where the Shades of green come in.
I got a Perm,
threw a birthday party (I did have SOME re-useable plates and glasses available)
and due to being sick, have wasted water on at least two luxurious hot baths

On the positive side,  my sister and I introduced my mom and dad to Park + Vine today, and I got some 100% recyclable tissues (yay, however it still is a shade, as hankerchiefs would technically be better)

We are still working on getting things together for the garden, some seeds need to be re-started, and seedlings need to be seperated.  Above all, the swingset needs to come down so that we can prepare the area.

Looking forward to shading more twoards green in the next year!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Nurture vs. Nature: Mom, The grocery store, and grandma

A few days ago I ended up at the grocery store with mom.  Mom was more along for the company than any need of her own, so of course I was talking about the things I was picking up and reasoning behind it. Somewhere, while walking through the grocery store, I start hearing stories of mom when she was a kid.  Telling me of things she's been looking for that her mom used to make.  It was great, these were stories I'd never heard before! (this is a feat) 

Mom tells about this dish called Chicken-ala-king that Grandma used to make.  No, not from scratch, it was a packet that Grandma would put in a pot of boiling water and warm up that way.  On the surface this doesn't seem so odd, until you remember that this would have been happening in the 50's or 60's.  When you hear of a dish that your grandma used to make, that gets your mom all nostalgic, you are expecting there to be an awesome recipe right?  Nope, this was something pre-processed and packaged.

As we continue through the store I make a passing comment about a package of broccoli tops, that it’s lazy, how long does it really take to cut up some broccoli?  Mom turns to me, looks at me, and laughs. "You are Not your Grandmother's granddaughter" -- Wait? What? 

Grandma's apparent motto in the kitchen was, "why make it harder on your self?"

Several reasons in no particular order:
·        right now, cing is still a bit of a novelty to me
·        I've been trying to purchase organic, local foods
·        From scratch  isn't that expensive, and encourages me to use what I have
o       For example, it’s less epensive to buy the ingredients for the brownies than buying the box, and doesn't take that much longer to put it together.
·        I'm trying new things (and trying to get the husband too as well)
·        There's less processing and packaging
·        and technically less chemicals used/ingested

Although I want to say fresh vegetables are a novelty to me, I remember grandpa's garden, and our home garden. (Yay! tomatoes!) The only 'fresh' things I knew how to work with, however, were carrots, celery, potatoes, broccoli, and onions.  The onions were new; I'd learned the wonders of fresh onions at a friend’s house, while at home we used minced dehydrated onions.  Did mom follow her mom? Or was it a two fold issue of cost and convenience?

How does one balance wanting to do things better with cost and convenience?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

on Green it Yourself segments

Ok these sets of videos kinda annoy me.  So their tips for Green it yourself is replace the everything in the family room, well maybe not the furniture, cause that can be re-used.

Re-paint, at least one wall with the whiteboard wall paint (uber cool: yes, necessary: no)
Replace your carpet with sustainable wooden flooring maybe with an area rug.
several issues here:  not everyone is dealing with allergy issues, although I can appreciate the VOC's that are supposedly  Have you looked at the prices of flooring recently? If you add in the eco-freindly wood/material, often you double the price.  We're getting some interesting Mohawk Smartstrand installed in our house, in a planned re-carepeting. Cool indeed! Price-wise, however, we were only really able to do this due to a couple of deals that were happening and a mislabeled price in the show room. Else, all the environmentally friendly carpeting/flooring would have been placed out of our range.
The site's advice for air purification was to remove all possible allergens. (the carpet, and the furniture etc.)
No mention of mitigating factors. No verbal mention was made that many house plants improve air quality and act as filters.   The end of the segment, however,  had the host, sitting in a completely cleared room surrounded by houseplants.
Not that these things aren’t worth considering if you are planning on re-doing the room. I guess as well in a DIY for a room you are talking about an entire room, it just seems to me a little all or nothing.  Not much room for varying shades.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Spring Planting

A little over a week ago, I had quite a scene in my kitchen.  Robyn was over with her husband and another friend and there was dirt and packets everywhere!

No my friends didn’t trash my kitchen – I can do that well enough my self.  The kitchen just happened to be the best place, and easiest to clean up – to plant seeds.  The kitchen, and its adjoining sunroom/extension, is also the seeds temporary living space until they grow further, the weather warms, the swing set comes down, and we are able to plant them outside.

Here’s a sampling of what we planted:

·        Carrots
·        Pansies
·        Beans
·        Marigolds
·        Cucumbers
·        Bachelor buttons
·        Zucchini
·        Snapdragons
·        Beefsteak tomatoes
·        And more!
·        Tomatoes
·        Yellow pear tomatoes
·        Rosemary
·        Green peppers
·        Basil
·        Pie pumpkins
·        Catnip
·        Butternut squash
·        Cilantro

·        Thyme

·        Oregano

·        Parsley

We went a little overboard I know.  We even had to run back out and get some additional supplies so that we had enough starter trays.  We had a homemade dinner and they went home for the evening.

I made sure to water them the next day, waiting anxiously for the first signs of growth.  Knowing that the beans would likely be the first to grow I had keen interest in the progress. A day or so later I noticed that the beans were indeed growing, but not in the way I expected.  Instead of green shoots, they were fuzzy.  I apparently over watered the poor beans, and will have to re-start them.

On the other hand, although it’s a mixed showing to an extent, I’m excited about the progress they have shown.  

I have sprouts in:

  • Cucumbers
  • Yellow pear tomatoes
  •  Pumpkins
  • Rosemary
  •  Squash
  • Catnip

  •  Zucchini

Exciting indeed!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Color of Souls

I've often joked that black is the color of my soul. If nothing else, it's definately the dominant color in my wardrobe. But it's not the only color vying for my attention. Even when I was very young, green was making itself known to me, hovering at the edges of my awareness.

When I was a child, my mother stayed home with my sister and I, but she felt the quite natural desire to do something more. And so she created Planetwise Products, a small, in-home business to sell eco friendly products. She also gave talks to various school groups and Girl Scout troops to teach them of the importance of taking care of the planet. As with most of her schemes, it fizzled out and now all that remains are a bundle of envelopes with the company logo, and the knowledge that it's important to care for the planet- firmly entrenched in the mind of her eldest child. And hopefully in the minds of a few of the other children she spoke to. Hopefully.

Despite that early lesson, I never really learned the practical aspects of being green. I understood recycling, and that was the extent. And not even recycling everything. I'd carry around an empty plastic bottle all day to take it home and recycle it, but I burned papers and envelopes with mindless glee. It was life with my Dad that really expanded my recycling horizons. Even though he has never openly mentioned pursuing a green lifestyle, Dad is so thorough in his recycling that he actually cuts the plastic windows out of envelopes so that he can recycle the rest, and he sighs when he sees the bag of shredded documents he can't safely recycle. About once a week, he drives the boxes to a central location and dumps his recycling into the bin- no curb side pick-up for him!

This habitual behavior inspired in me a recycling mania. Anything that can be recycled, is recycled. Anything that has parts that can be recycled is torn apart so that as little goes into the trash as absolutely possible. Around this time, I also started cooking more, and lamented what I had to toss out for lack of compost. Sure, an apple core is better in a landfill than a plastic bottle, but it's even better biodegrading in garden soil. Still, trapped in a condo with no garden, I was stuck.

Enter Jackie. I'd known her for a few years, but it wasn't until she and her husband bought their first house that she started to really pay more attention to her green leanings, and, by talking to her, so did I. It didn't hurt that she introduced me to a company that delivered fresh local produce to your door, and the taste was so much better than anything else. Well, it made quite an impression!

Slowly, green is creeping into my life. I'm getting more green cleaning supplies. I'm browing green sites online to see what other waste I can recycle or reuse. What I can do and eat that is healthier for me, my family, and the planet.

And then, then... Jackie suggested planting an organic garden in her yard. A chance to use my kitchen waste! My coffee grounds! To get more fresh veggies than I can possibly cook before they spoil! But if they spoil, they just go back into the dirt to prepare for the next batch.

Even more than dietary rewards, gardening creates the need for the other part of being green- namely, being outside. It's one thing to care about the environment when you only go out in it to walk to your car. It's another when you can't get the dirt out from under your nails! Feeling the earth, smelling it, working with it and eating from it- that's what builds the connection that our modern society works so hard to disconnect us from.

I look good in black, but the fact is that I also look good in green. But... I think that everyone does, really. It's one of those colors, because it has so many different shades.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Plotting for a Garden

As spring is approaching, Robyn and I have been plotting.  It feels a bit like conspiring. In a month or so the swingset we inherited when we bought the house will come down.  This leaves a nice partitioned off area that, on the surface, looks perfect for a back yard garden.  
  • we don't have to pull up the grass
  • great sunlight
  • easy access and view from the house
Perfect right?

Unfortunately not. The problem we are encountering in our preparation is a dying black walnut tree.  Black walnut trees produce a chemical called juglone that is toxic to several plants, namely tomatoes and peppers. At the moment I could care less about eggplant, potatoes and a few others.   Squash, corn and a few others are tolerant. Although the tree is dying, I don't think that will help the plants that would be there, as the toxins stay in the ground well after the tree has been removed. 

Through a few different means, there are a few possibilities open to us: 
  • use a raised garden, we were planning on using/ adding some new soil anyway
  • re-use an old car-carrier as an embedded container to isolate the effected plants from the dangerous toxins
  • not plant anything that would be effected by it
We shall see.  I don't think I'll plot out how we will put the plants into the ground until after we decide how this will go.  Of course, we first need to start the seedlings.  Which will be soon.  Very soon.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Unfriendly Felines

We’ve recently had an issue with our two cats using unconventional relief facilities. – They’ve been peeing in my laundry; the brats.
 After finding out that it was not just the more cantankerous of our two cats acting out, but our more easy going cat as well (whom we caught in the act!), we started thinking of other causes.  My husband came to the conclusion that it is the litter.  What we are currently using isn’t clumping correctly. It’s too hard, and spreads out too far.  The cats can’t dig down the way they want to, and thus are displeased with us and finding more suitable facilities. 
            So this is now the second eco friendly litter that the cats have unanimously nixed.  We tried Yesterday’s News when we got the younger cat spayed and de-clawed.  They didn’t seem too pleased with it, and we weren’t terribly pleased with clean up.  This current attempt was a scooping clay litter from Cat Magic. The company replaces the topsoil and then re-seeds the area where they pulled up the clay from .   Still no go, the cats didn’t like it. I caved, I purchased another bin of Tidy Cat. 
            With the previous two failures I’m hesitant to attempt the wheat or pine based litters.  What do you do when your cats tell you, “Sorry, we don’t want to go green?” 

In today's search I also found this site that may potentially be helpful in the future. . . if the cats agree. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Hello World

Welcome to Many Shades of Green.

A little over a year ago my husband and I bought our first house.
Each of us, in our own way, has been interested in environmental
issues since we were much, much younger.  That being said, the extent
of it was more "let's recycle the normal things and look at
alternative energy items like they were pieces from the lost arc" than
overhauling our entire lifestyle.  Our outlook was influenced, but we
had limited buying power.  As we shape our house into a home, we are
finally getting the chance to look at different alternatives, see what
we can afford to do, and what the little things are that we can do to
help make larger difference over time.

As I watch the different feeds come across the varying social media
I’m on regularly, there’s a discrepancy between my reactions.  Some
things are seen as easily doable and either get pulled into future
actions or put on grocery lists. Others I look at and know that I’m
just not ready for that level of change.  I applaud the people who are
able to do it, and it gives me something to think about as I plan for
the future.

While exploring what is able to be incorporated into my life, I’d also
like to look at the difference between hype and reality, as well as
top of the line value and practicality.

Welcome to the journey, it will be nice to have you along!