a thanksgiving quiz

photo by annie spratt

How are you choosing to celebrate this year?

Novice: You decorate with nature (acorns, fruits & leaves) instead of plastic and synthetic materials.

Intermediate:  You also use your good dishes, glasses and cloth napkins instead of disposables. Make the day special!

Pro: All of the above + you shop local and organic. In the kitchen you use reusable leftover containers and borrow extra dishes, platters and special pots ‘n pans instead of buying disposables.

Extra credit: You stay close to home. It’s a special year, so if you’re not going anywhere feel better knowing that you’re keeping the air cleaner!

spray away

photo by anna hecker

‘Tis the season for pumpkin pie, hot chocolate and all kinds of treats topped with whipped cream. And unless you make your own, all good cans must come to an end. But wait. Before you toss it and other spray cans (like cooking spray) check your county’s recycling guidelines. The cans (empty, no cap) are recyclable in some areas. Aerosol cans are made of either aluminum or steel, high-value metals that can be reused again and again, so it’s worth checking into!

do sumthin’ with the pumpkin

photo by jocelyn fletcher

Decorating for Fall? Take a green step and buy your pumpkins from a local farm or farmers’ market. (Go greener and save the seeds to grow your own next year.) If you carve a jack-o-lantern, toast the seeds for snack or on a salad. You can also make pie or muffins with the fruit you scoop out. Compost the rest when you’re done…or the pumpkin is. And let me know if those dried corn arrangements are edible!

beige gold

photo by karolina grabowska

Ordering a lot of packages these days? Do you open them up and then cast an annoyed look at the shipping box? Corrugated cardboard is the most recycled paper product, with a 95% recovery rate. It also has the highest value, earning it the nickname “beige gold,” because its long paper fibers make it durable. Over half of collected cardboard is used to make new cardboard boxes (to send you more packages), but it’s also used for things like cereal and shoe boxes. Recycling one ton of virgin cardboard saves 17 trees and valuable landfill space.

eat your enemies

photo by wai siew

Plant and animal species are called invasive when they’re not native to an ecosystem and cause harm. DYK that one invasive species can destroy an entire coral reef, forest, or body of water? The newcomers unbalance the interactions between the native plants and animals. One intriguing way to get rid of these invaders is by eating them. Ever tried garlic mustard greens, lionfish filet, or green crabs? They’re all invasive… and edible. Next time I see a jar of kudzu jelly, a scourge of the South, I’ll definitely buy some. I think I’ll pass on the Burmese python, but let me know if it tastes like chicken.

cleaner than you found it

DYK that water and wind can carry trash hundreds of miles? Plastic bags and other garbage can easily travel along streams, rivers, and other waterways to their ultimate resting place in the oceans. So take your waste when you leave recreational areas. Go one step greener by leaving nature cleaner than you found it. Those of us who come after you give you a big thank you in advance- and we’ll try to do the same thing!

plastic bag free day

photo by morgan vander hart

Tomorrow is International Plastic Bag Free day, so prepare today! Try to get through the day without accepting or using any plastic bags. Most plastic bags are only used for 20-30 minutes before they’re tossed, but it takes hundreds of years for them to decompose.

At the store, whip out a reusable bag or put your purchase in your pocket, purse or backpack. In the kitchen, ignore plastic zipper bags and substitute with reusable storage containers (glass and takeout containers are my favorite).

 Just try it for one day (and then another, and another…) and see how it goes!

your clothes won’t complain

photo by annie spratt

I now select cold or tap water for the laundry because it uses 90% less energy than hot water. I like to think of it this way- if I paid $10 a month for hot water before, now I pay $1 by using cold. And my clothes are just as clean. Today’s washers- and detergents- are so advanced, you don’t usually need hot water. In our house, it also means less worry about colors bleeding into the wash.

Set the spin cycle to high and your clothes will come out drier and take less time in the dryer (if you use one).

vampire loads

photo by clint patterson

Even when they’re off, energy vampires like computers, DVRs, cable boxes, chargers and even coffee makers slowly drain electricity. Vampire loads use about 5% of the energy consumed in the US, costing electric customers more than $3 billion each year. Tonight turn off your lights and look for standby lights. They’re a sign that something is draining power, even though it isn’t being used. Unplug them when they’re not in use, or use power strip to make powering on and off easier.