the freezer is a pleaser

a temporarily tidy shelf of bananas, muffins, lemon juice cubes, grapes, almonds & a pretzel

September is busy- back to school and hectic fall routines. This can cause a lot of food waste (ok, at least in our family) as we recalibrate. Although I’m thankful for my compost bin, I’m even more appreciative of my freezer right now. Browning bananas, extra muffins and bagels, grapes we’re not getting to, leftover tomato paste and an overabundance of homemade pesto- they all go into the freezer until I’m ready to use them. It’s like getting an extension on your homework! Write the date on the outside because who can remember that kind of stuff?

bake it outside

It’s a sizzling summer and the last thing I want to do is create more heat in the house. Many people grill out- so smart! Unfortunately, we don’t have one right now, but we do still cook outdoors.

History buffs know that -particularly in steamy southern climates- kitchens were often built separate from the rest of the house. This kept the main living space cooler and protected it from kitchen fires.

We have gone back to our roots, putting our handy dandy toaster oven on the screened-in porch (a garage or covered area works too). We make toast, fries & chicken tenders, veggies burgers & bacon and even calzones out there!

fish food?

DYK that June is National Oceans Month? Even though it’s technically over, you can still help stop one of our biggest aquatic issues– the tons of plastic waste that travels from streams and rivers into the seas and stomachs of ocean wildlife.

Here are a couple of easy ways you can keep plastics out of our waters:

1. Reduce single-use plastics: common ocean waste includes cigarette butts, take out packaging & food wrappers, beverage bottles & bottle caps, straws and plastic bags.

2. Don’t be trashy: dispose responsibly and reduce, reuse, and recycle when possible. Garbage travels!

3. Pick it up: sometimes I’m a beach cleanup crew of one but it all counts!

avoid the jam

If all jams were so sweet! But traffic jams aren’t just a waste of time, they’re a waste of gas and create more tailpipe emissions. Avoid peak rush hours when you’re working, running errands, and especially when traveling. For example, I will never again go to the store near the local school around pick up time- I was stuck for an 10 extra minutes in stand-still traffic!

making a list and checking it twice…

A grocery list, that is (but please keep singing!). Don’t scoff- planning at least some of your meals can have a bigger impact than you think. A part of the massive food waste in the US occurs in our refrigerators. Think about it: what food did you just throw out? For me, it was pizza dough (didn’t get to it in time). And pudding (now I know everyone hates butterscotch).

Think it takes too much time to keep track? My list keeps me moving quickly through the store and I usually don’t forget anything, which means fewer trips to the grocery (more time saving and less gas!). Keep a running list on your phone or fridge.

presents with a presence

photo by mel poole

Looking for holiday presents that give in more than one way? Try a few sustainable gifts this year. Some of my favorites are organic cotton jeans and recycled product sneakers. Around the house, reusable dishcloths, silicone reusable sandwich bags and bamboo (i.e. compostable) toothbrushes have been pretty successful.

You might be surprised at the variety available, with everything from sustainable fashion brands to a compostable phone case (who knew?) and floss.  And if you’re done shopping for now, there’s always a birthday coming up. Check around before you buy!

Less ladder, more LED

Looking for fewer trips up a ladder to replace light bulbs? Energy efficient LED bulbs aren’t just for indoors- you can use them for porch and yard lighting too. And they hold up well in cold weather. Not only will you use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs, but they’ll  also last up to 25 times longer.  Think about when you need to replace your holiday lights as well!

slay your vampires

It’s fun to light up a lantern or pumpkin on Halloween night, but would you leave them on all year? Some devices (TVs, coffee makers, printers, computers, and electric clocks) are always active …and they’re quietly sucking up energy. Spooooooky! Unplug these energy vampires (that’s a real term) until you actually use them. You could see a lower electric bill as well!

quiz: how green are your grocery habits?

photo by tara clark

How do you rate? Do you…

o   make a list beforehand

o   use fewer one-use produce bags

o   buy local

o   buy in season

o   buy less meat

o   bring your own grocery bags

o   buy less plastic/individually wrapped items

o   extra credit: walk, bike, carpool to the store

Celery level (you checked 1-2): Great start! Try something else on your next trip!

Lime level (3-5): Pat yourself on the back and keep up the good work!

Zucchini level (6 or more) You’re amazing! Please share your tips with the rest of us!

Any other eco-ideas for the grocery?

you can can cans (like these)

                               

Like all other steel or aluminum cans, empty aerosol cans are recyclable, which could give you added incentive to finish up that can of whipped cream! Can you recycle these curbside? Check your local recycling guidelines- in my county they go to scrap metal recycling.

    cooking spray

    whipped cream

    bug spray & sunscreen

    shaving cream

    surface cleaners

    degreasers (like WD40)

    static guard

    spray paint

    pesticides

What happens to these cans in their next life? Picture a world of recycled bike and car parts, rebar and steel beams, appliances, and- yep- new cans (some of which are already 25% recycled metal).