bigger is better (in this case)

Do you try to recycle every single little piece of plastic in your house (like I was)? Small pieces- 3 inches or smaller- can clog the belts and gears of the recycling machinery. I’m talking things like bread bag clips, plastic beads, pill packaging, random parts of children’s toys, and single-use condiment pouches. FYI- they end up being thrown away…if not by you. I feel like I owe my local recycling center an apology (but we’re good now!).

imagine by vincent tan

old-school yards

Some people (probably those who hate mowing) think big grassy yards are outdated. They can take a lot of water, chemicals, and fertilizer…not to mention time! This fall is a good time to consider adding native trees, bushes and flowers to lessen your grass footprint. You can always start small and add on gradually.  If you do plant grass, look for brands with deep roots, which need less watering, or try clover- which will give you a different look (and bees!) and add nitrogen to the soil.  

tiny house…or not

photo by arwin basdew

Tiny houses require a lot less energy & housework, and are so darn cute! Unfortunately, teensy houses are not practical for some of us.

If you’re not planning to downsize any time soon, sign up for an energy audit instead- it might be free from your local power company. The guy was at our house for less than 2 hours, gave us several suggestions on how to be more efficient, and left us a big box of water and energy saving devices, like low-flow shower heads and LED light bulbs.

naked at the grocery?

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing!

What happens to the plastic produce bags you bring home from the supermarket? You can reuse them (they’re great for covering half a melon, for example). Even better- go naked and don’t use a bag at all for single items, cucumbers, bananas, etc. Throw trickier veggies like green beans or tomatoes into a reusable nylon bag. They last forever!

Try to take a couple of bags with you each week- or go naked- and save hundreds of plastic bags a year!

dog days drinks

decaf English Breakfast/peach tea with sugar & stevia

The dog days of summer are here, and all we want at my house is a tall glass of something cold. Usually that means iced tea, flavored water or lemonade by the gallon- but we avoid plastic bottles by making our own (it’s easier than you may think). You can even find new “unsweetened natural flavor essence” for bubbly water machines. Mix your own flavors- I’m thinking lime mango. Home brew tea means you can control the sweetness, make it decaf, or add flavors (my favorite is peach). Or use a packet of drink mix- you can add them to your water bottle no matter where you are!

lotion in the ocean

You lather up with sunscreen before you play in the waves, right? And so do hundreds of people around you. All that lotion can cause trouble in the ocean. Common ingredients like oxybenzone, octinoxate, nano titanium dioxide, and nano zinc oxide can harm coral reefs and sea life.

When you buy your next bottle, keep these tips in mind:

-Sunscreens labeled “reef safe” aren’t regulated, so take that designation with a grain of (sea) salt.

-Some popular brands don’t contain oxybenzone or octinoxate, two of the most harmful chemicals.

-If you cover up with a swim shirt you’ll use a lot less sunscreen!

summertime and the livin’ is…hot

anyone else do porch cooking?

It’s been really steamy already this summer, and the last thing you might want is to heat the house cooking. Our thermostat goe up when I turn on the oven, which is great in the winter, but not in July.

On these blazing days, try to either cook early and reheat, grill out, or use the crock pot or microwave- they don’t create nearly as much heat. Salads are good too. We use our toaster oven a lot, so it’s on the screened-in porch until the weather cools down!

How do you avoid a hot house when you’re hungry?

please the bees

outside my front door

It’s National Pollinators Week! Unfortunately, honey bees aren’t doing so well– their habitat is shrinking, parasites and disease are rampant, and they’re exposed to harmful pesticides. Two things you can do:

1. Find native, bee-friendly plants for your garden (or a pot). “Old-fashioned” varieties are best–some modern blooms have lost their fragrance and/or the nectar/pollen that attracts and feeds pollinators.

2. Pesticides that are really harmful to bees have special labels on them, so follow the instructions if you have to use them. Or don’t use them at all!

I’m going to celebrate by eating some honey.

carbon offsets 101

photo by jan kopriva

Hearing more about carbon offsets these days and need some background info?

Basically, it means if you create carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas- one way (say you fly a lot), you make up for it another way (you might plant a bunch of trees. A bunch.). Some popular offset projects include:

  • carbon capture: equipment that captures gases before they’re released at places with high emissions, like landfills and mines
  • forestry: planting trees or protecting old ones (I forgot about the oldies!)
  • using more efficient stoves: mostly a focus in developing countries
  • renewable energy: wind turbines and hydroelectric dams, but also individuals’ solar panels and biogas digesters (do you have yours yet?)

national what day?

Did you know that today is National Arbor Day? (Apparently States choose their own days depending on the best planting time- our is in September.)

According to a Chinese proverb, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” Trees are great windbreaks and soil conservers, air purifiers, wildlife habitats (both dead and alive), and shade providers (aka the foes of urban heat islands). Oh, and the ones in your yard can increase property values and decrease your AC bills.

Evergreen, fruit, nut or just a regular ole tree, the choice is yours. And yes, a miniature lemon tree on your balcony counts!