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?

eat mor plantz

photo by zoe schaeffer

The growing, processing, and shipping of meat (pork, beef, and chicken) requires huge amounts of pesticides, fertilizers, energy, feed and water, not to mention the waste produced. Eating less meat is not only healthier for the environment, it’s healthier for you.

If you’re not on the tofu wagon, think beans & rice, a veggie stir fry, pasta, or a veggie burger. Even once a week is a step in the right direction!

What’s your favorite meatless meal?

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Some people (probably those who hate mowing) think big grassy yards are outdated.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

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!

when size matters

which of these three do you want in your house?

Are you tired of lugging (and storing) huge plastic bottles of laundry detergent? And then tossing that chunk of plastic when it’s empty? You have options. Pods are smaller, but still contain plastic and can be pricey. We use concentrated detergent- you get the same number of washes from a much smaller bottle. (hint: measure so you don’t use more than you need.) But a friend just introduced me to detergent sheets (where have I been?). They dissolve in the wash and you’re left with a slim cardboard envelope. A quick search shows I can’t buy them locally but they’re available online. I look forward to the extra space in my cabinet!

change three ways

For a quick upgrade replace the bulbs in your 3-way light fixtures with LEDs to reduce energy use by up to 90%. Check out the label to make sure the “brightness” and “light appearance” are what you want. Also- speaking from experience- make sure the bulb fits in your lamp before you buy it. Then sit back and forget about it: LEDs last up to 50,000 hours. Easy peasy!