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).

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Some people (probably those who hate mowing) think big grassy yards are outdated.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.  

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!

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!

earth day pick up

Most people walk by trash on streets, athletic fields, in the woods- if they even notice it. Swedish folks actually  have a word for jogging while collecting trash, called plogging (plocka upp means “to pick up” in Swedish, apparently).

Invite friends and family to join you on a trash walk today (or any day- we’re going this weekend). If you gross out at the thought of scooping up disposable masks and food wrappers, start with plastic bottles and aluminum cans, which are also easy to recycle.

It’s easy, and makes an instant difference. Happy Earth Day!

high five, baby!

photo by viktor nikolaienko

April 16  is National High-five Day, so give yourself some skin for all the green steps you’ve taken in the past year. I know someone who is so environmentally conscious that every move she makes is carefully weighed. Her eco-amazingness makes me feel kind of… pathetic. Ever feel like that?

Stop comparing yourself to others (I’m telling myself this too). It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the many environmental choices we’re faced with every day. No one is perfect, so focus on progress instead.

Celebrate your accomplishments, both big and small, and remember that you’re not alone in trying to do your best, one step at a time! High five!