July 2010 - Our Daily Green

Friday, July 30, 2010

Microlending Green

Last fall, I became familiar with microlending from a post by my blog-sistah, Consciously Frugal.

(if you don't follow her, get over there now and do so... she is a wealth of information with a snappy & humorous delivery... really, you'll thank me later!) Then come back here. Thanks! (oh and if you don't follow ME? why aren't you?)

This post has been picked up for syndication over on Your Olive Branch.org, a wonderful non profit forum to promote sustainable living and peace.

From their mission statement,

[YOBO is] building a community of people who love to communicate about what they are thinking about and doing to create the intersection of peace and sustainability—to bring those who are already making this effort together with those who don’t realize they are having a positive effect on peace and sustainability by eating local food, buying local products, planting trees, helping their neighbor, resolving conflicts, caring for others, and performing other actions and generating other ideas to make the world a better place. Peace is something we can accomplish one message, one article, one community event, one act of kindness, and one day at a time.
Our Daily Green is honored to be affiliated with YOBO and would be thrilled if you went and visited the forum. Thank you!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Vampire Energy is not Green

Our Daily Green has a confession to make. I am a vampire. Before you start lining up for my autograph or see if my skin sparkles in the sun, I do not mean the kind of pop culture icon that is on the best seller list or filling the movie theaters. No, I'm a much less glamorous sort of vampire.

While I consciously and diligently avoid plastic, hang my clothing to dry on the line, use cloth napkins, and make other ecofriendly choices, my computer never shuts down, I often have my cell phone charger plugged in, and though I rarely print anything out on paper, my printer is always on. These instant-on appliances and gadgets can account for up to up to 10% of a household's annual energy bill.  

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, nearly 3/4s of the energy used to power electronics is used when the appliances and products are switched off.  

Examples of home energy vampires include: 

  • Laptop/Netbook chargers

  • TVs

  • VCRs, DVD players, DVRs

  • Speakers and Audio Receivers

  • Phone chargers, answering machines

  • Printers, Scanners, Fax machines

  • Routers

  • iPod and MP3 Chargers

  • XBOX, Playstation, Wii, and other gaming systems

  • PSP, Nintendo DS, and portable gaming chargers

  • Electronic toys and handheld devices
To calculate your vampire power usage, a free app is available from App Shopper,  Just make sure you unplug the charger when you're not calculating or charging your phone.

Solutions are much more simple than a wooden stake through the heart or a silver bullet. A few simple ideas include unplugging unused chargers, using power strips to turn off appliances when not in use, and (sigh) turning off the computer.

Do you have any other painless ways to avoid energy vampires?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cash for Caulkers Green

On May 6th, 2010, the House of Representatives passed the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act. nicknamed "Cash for Caulkers". The bill has generated a fair amount of partisan controversy, as the cost is $5.7 billion dollars over two years.  According to the Cash for Caulkers blog, Senator Harry Reid will present the bill today July 28, 2010, hoping to get the bill passed before the summer recess in August.

from CNN Money:
The act "is a common-sense bill that will create jobs, save consumers money, and strengthen our economy," President Obama said after the House passed the measure. "We have workers eager to do new installations and renovations, and factories ready to produce new energy-efficient building supplies."
The program will result in the creation of tens of thousands of jobs while achieving substantial reductions in energy use – the equivalent of the entire output of three coal-fired power plants each year. Consumers in the program are anticipated to save between $200 - $500 per year in energy costs, while improving the comfort and value of their homes. Homeowners planning summer improvement projects including replacement windows and doors, window film installation, caulking air leaks, replacing furnace or air conditioners may be eligible for rebates.

If you support this bill and are interested in qualifying for some rebates, contact your Senator today and voice your opinion. For a complete chart of the sort of rebates available, check Construction Software Advice's  Definitive Guide To The Home Star Energy Retrofit Act of 2010 .

To follow the progress of the bill, Open Congress has an excellent synopis.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Safe Sun Green

One of the joys of summer is the abundant sunshine. But with sunshine, comes the risk of sunburn and dangerous UV rays. Sunblock is the safest way to enjoy the sunshine without the risk of burn, but over the years, I've discovered my children cannot tolerate the chemical sunscreens so prevalent on the market. They would swim and complain about the burn from the sunscreen and it became a fight to use it. I started reading ingredients and comparing brands of sunscreens that touted themselves as natural.  The labels of the sunscreen were confusing to navigate, but I just always remembered if it began with an O (including oxybenzone, octy-methoxycinnamate and octinoxate) it not one I wanted to buy.

Upon further research, the two chemical free sun block ingredients are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide work differently from the chemical sunscreens in that they block the rays versus create a chemical reaction on the skin to deflect them.

Recent research suggests that many chemical sunscreen ingredients are not particularly safe. Samuel S. Epstein, author of Toxic Beauty: How Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Endanger Your Health . . . And What You Can Do about It, warns that ingredients such as benzophenone are a "hormone disrupter" which mimics natural hormones produced by the endocrine system. It is also an allergen, causing allergic reactions, and a "penetration enhancer," which penetrates the skin, and is absorbed into the bloodstream and invades body wide organs. Octyl-methoxycinnamate is also a hormone disrupter and penetration enhancer which has been detected in breast milk. Oxybenzone, another hormone disrupter, has also been detected in breast milk. Parabens are still other hormone disrupters.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins have learned that an extract from broccoli, called sulforaphane has sunblocking properties. Sulforaphane has the effect of activating cells' production of what are known as "phase 2 enzymes." One such enzyme, glutathione S-transferase, has been shown to neutralize the DNA-damaging compounds produced by the skin produces when struck by ultraviolet radiation. If children won’t eat broccoli, they may just be able to wear it.

It's possible to safely enjoy the sun, and that's the sort of green that makes Our Daily Green's days bright!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Grass-fed Green

Today, I'd like to enlighten you about the health and wallet benefits of eating grass fed beef. First I probably should explain that the majority of beef raised in the  United States is NOT grass fed, but rather corn fed. Corn makes cows grow faster, but in an unnatural way. Additionally, corn is not what a cow's stomach can digest naturally.

Our high school biology classes taught us about the four parts of the cow's stomach. How the cow and other herbivores ate their food, took it to part one & two of their stomach to digest, regurgitated it to chew the cud a bit longer then sent it to part three & four of the stomach. Rumination is an adaption by which herbivores can spend as little time as possible feeding (when they are most vulnerable to predation) and then later digest their food in safer surroundings.

Cows are biologically programmed to digest grasses in such a manner. Corn is not a grass, and therefore bypasses the rumination process. Corn fed cattle grow faster and less naturally than grass fed. A typical corn fed calf is ready for market several months earlier than a grass fed calf. With such efficiency, why does Our Daily Green encourage grass fed meat?  Beef from corn fed cattle is about 4 times higher in fat as well as contains virtually no Omega*3. Grass fed beef contains no unnatural growth hormones and additionally is generally slaughtered one animal at a time.  (If you've ever wondered about the high number of eColi or mad cow disease outbreaks, they are the result of hundreds, even thousands of animals being factory processed in a single batch. if one cow is sick, the entire lot of meat *especially ground meat* becomes contaminated).

Grass fed local beefLast week, I had the pleasure of touring a local farm that sells only grass fed meat to their customers. Walnut Hill Farm in Western Pennsylvania operates a small farm (100 acres or so) that adheres to the principals of slow food.  We arrived to see owner Mike Kovach putting his fresh chickens on a spit for a family party later that evening. His gracious wife, Karen, joined us on a tour as they showed us what they are doing with their slice of land. We met their team of ducks, tribe of goats, brood of chickens, and gang of turkeys.

They explained their methods for grass feeding and moving their animals around to different pastures. Our family met their beautiful herd of black Angus cattle, with the shiniest coats I've ever seen. It tugged a heartstring, as my grandfather raised black Angus. When Mike used the same cattle call as my grandfather, I traveled back 30 years.

When we left Walnut Hills, it was with complimentary ground beef and a dozen eggs to try. I'm happy to report that it was truly delicious and I cannot wait for my side of beef to arrive. As a side note, free range eggs contain on average 6 times the Vitamin D that caged eggs contain. Chickens raised outdoors in the sunshine transfer the Vitamin D to their eggs.

If you're interested in finding a small farmer who raised their animals naturally, Local Harvest has an excellent search tool for local farmer's markets, CSAs, co-ops or farms.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Big Boxes not so Green

The other day, a comment was made on another blog about why shopping big box stores was a bad idea if you were buying earth friendly items and saving money. It was a fair question and it dawned on me that the negative press surrounding big box stores doesn't really resonate with the consumer, but rather winds up sounding like sour grapes from little stores.

The fact is, the low prices we pay at mega stores are often deceptive. As a former career retail employee, I can testify that for every lowered loss leader price, other staple prices rise. It's about total profit percentage, so volume items often can be sold at a loss or purchased cheaper because a large store can purchase quantities that smaller stores will never sell in a year.

Past the simple bait and switch pricing are several additional concerns that big box stores spark. One example is the Black and Decker company. Until this millennium, Black and Decker was a true Made in the USA company. Demands from big box home improvement stores for lower prices, drove the company to close a North Carolina factory and move operations internationally to the Czech Republic, China and Mexico. Similar pressures have affected Levi Strauss, once considered the quintessential American jeans company.

When a consumer is lured by the low price of cheap jeans or tools, they often overpay on the other "one stop shopping" items they pick up at such stores. How many people can honestly say they ever go into a store for just one item and never pick up anything else?

Beyond the merchandise is the environmental impact such big stores wreak. Covering open, breathing land with asphalt and 100,000 sq. ft. buildings is not conducive to a healthy soil or nearby water. When rain falls onto the mega stores parking lots, it washes petroleum toxins off the lot with it into nearby land and water. When big stores open in a new community, they often abandon smaller stores in neighboring communities, leaving an empty building behind.

The societal impact, the one we most often hear about, is indeed the closing of smaller businesses, the loss of decent paying jobs, and the loss of community involvement. I've written previously about the 3/50 local shopping movement. To highlight the truth behind the movement, as a parent, I am often soliciting donations for different retailers around town for various fundraisers.

While an unscientific survey, I can testify that the local stores were the generous ones, the ones who donated and participated in our various fundraisers. They are the people who had or have children in the community. They are the people who employ their neighbor. They pay fair wages. When I went to the national chain stores, I was told that I either was "too late" (this was 2 mos. prior to the event), that I had to fill out the proper requisition form from "corporate", or that they had given for the year. This was in January. We weren't a person or local interest, we were a statistic. Meanwhile, the local stores gave generously and showed up to support our fundraisers. They live and breathe the community.

The jobs created at the stores pay minimum wage and offer little opportunity for advancement. Big box stores are also often given tax abatement so they aren't even helping the community fund, putting a greater burden on homeowners for streets, maintenance and police. Yes. police. Large stores attract shoplifters as well as multiple cars in a parking space. Police surveillance as well as the occasional criminal report must be filed. Small communities that invite big box stores also must often hire more civil servants and therefore assume a greater expense for no return.

When a big box stores petitions (threatens?) to build in a community with the promise of economic growth or jobs or lower prices, or whatever carrot they wave at the townspeople? The town is best to realize that carrot is likely to be made of toxic plastic manufactured far from home and one they'll never catch anyway.

Chance to win $2000 Goods Green!


Good morning, Daily Green readers! As you know, I'm a tremendous supporter of Fair Trade goods. Imagine my joy this morning to open my email and discover a chance to win $2000 worth!  In a contest promoted by Ecobunga, sponsored by Your Olive Branch, Ode Magazine, Alter Eco, and Indigenous Designs,  entrants have the chance to get a $2000 Fair Trade shopping spree. I encourage you to enter in whatever creative way you can muster. Good luck!

To enter, send in a creative expression of how you feel about fair trade commerce. You can do this through a submission of words, video, images, music, or other media.

A Green deal at Ecobunga!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Solar isn't just for Science Fairs Green

One of the favorite projects school kids make in science class is the famous "Solar Oven". My daughter baked a single cookie on her solar oven fashioned from a pizza box and tin foil. It was pretty high tech impressive. If a 5th grader can fashion a simple oven, imagine what a professional could do!

In the spirit of summer and taking advantage of all the sunshine, in addition to drying our laundry outside, we may want to consider solar cooking. While grilling is a popular summer activity, it leaves a rather high carbon footprint. Solar ovens are a way to take advantage of the warm weather without any footprint.

After the disaster in Haiti, several charities have donated solar kitchens as part of the Solar for Hope project, including Chef Jose Andres, who went to Haiti to man oversee the operation of 14 different solar kitchens. While solar cooking is a necessity in this part of the world, it's a novelty and fabulous experiment in sustainable living elsewhere.

Would you ever consider using solar power for cooking or ... what about recharging our gadgets? Or heating/cooling our homes? Outdoor lighting?

Does the bright power of sunshine inspire you past a child's science fair?

Eco*Friendly Quiz Green

I was over at my new blog friend's space this morning and she had this nice eco*friendly quiz posted. I had to chuckle that one of the options for sharing the eco*friendly quiz result was to print it out. I would think that would negate the quiz results immediately. Like those IQ quizzes that ask you to send money to get "detailed" results... I am convinced you lose 10-20 IQ points just for sending money. "Oh we made a mistake, you're not as smart as you think."

FreshGreenKim's Result: Total Tree Hugger

on quiz: How Eco-Friendly Are You?

You go above and beyond when it comes to being eco-friendly. You reduce, re-use, buy organic, buy green, and recycle every chance you get and respect the earth and environment. You are willing to change your daily, personal life to make a difference in the world. You are doing your part to protect and preserve the environment for future generations. You set a great example for how all people should treat the earth and we thank you for being so eco-conscious and earth-sensitive.
I was surprised that I didn't lose more "eco points" for my vehicle. I drive a hybrid, but it's an SUV crossover hybrid. Instead of getting mileage in the mid teens, it's in the mid twenties. Lots of room to improve there.

Would you take the quiz and report your results here? I would love to know where you do well and where you'd like to improve. It will help me plan future posts.

Thanks in advance!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Turning Green

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a social survey for green bloggers. One of the questions on the survey was what motivated me to "become green" or to provide a link to a blog post if I had written a post answering such a question.

After completing the survey, I thought more about my answer. Why am I green? Did I turn green? Was there ever a time I wasn't green? I am referring to eco-friendly, not motion sickness, incidentally. Do I want to be so self indulgent as to give you enough history why I've embraced green? I opted for indulgence and therefore I beg yours.

I grew up in the 1970s on a small organic vegetable farm in rural Ohio. We farmed 30 some acres with produce and raised our own chickens and pigs. My grandfather in the same town raised Black Angus cattle. We had a small roadside vegetable stand. I grew up with delicious fresh food, infrequent trips to the store, and a simple life. It wasn't a conscious decision or choice, but rather the only life I knew. If we rode our bikes somewhere, it was to our friends' houses to either play ball or swim in their ponds. We didn't generate garbage for a few reasons; we either burned it (eek!) or composted it, or drove it to the dump when we had too much. Farmers also have barns so they can save everything. We had a plethora of egg cartons, jars, bags, baskets. We just didn't generate much waste. Of course I dread the day that comes and those barns need to be cleaned out, but fortunately, that's not today... (however, I must keep it real).

After high school, I found myself in the city! The urban life was such a welcome surprise. I loved the freedom to walk places and explore the cultural vibe that went past ice cream socials at the Town Hall. I lived on campus at an urban university and loved that within 30 minutes I could walk all over the area, to plays, museums, shopping (albeit somewhat limited) and of course, college parties. I got involved in student activism, but it was more a social thing for me than a true lifestyle.

As a young married adult, our first home was in the city proper. I embraced curbside recycling and the frugal start in life side of me just was very careful with what I purchased and avoiding waste. I created more "found recipes" by refusing to throw out food in our pantry, but rather find a creative way to eat what we had before we bought more. I walked places or rode my bike to conserve gasoline, and therefore dollars. I was green but not for any other reason than keeping green in our bank account. I knew that I would want to be home when we had children so my goal was to save as much as possible.

When we had children, we moved to the suburbs. I stopped working for an income at that point, so my "job" became saving money. I nursed both our children instead of paying for formula and I used cloth diapers. My choices were honestly more about finances than environment, but I had a weird disconnect about telling folks I was cheap so I explained my choices as "environmentalism", again, keeping it honest and real.

I didn't fully embrace green living until tragedy hit our circle of friends and family. Within a 6 month period, about eight years ago, six close friends or family members were diagnosed with some sort of cancer. Today only one of those six is alive. Their diagnosis' rattled me so much. I consider myself a problem solver, but there seemed to be no solution to this horrifying disease. All I could do was consider what I grew up with and what I knew. Cancer is an abnormal growth of cells. What causes cells to grow abnormally or mutate?

Well, for starters, much of our food has been injected with... Growth Hormones. And I wondered about all the chemicals we douse our natural world with... our soil, our homes, our bodies... surely there may be something there.

I do not consider myself an expert by any stretch of the imagination. What began as a mission of frugality has evolved into a way to protect the health of my family. I don't know what causes cancer, but I don't believe artificial hormones, chemicals or additives can be healthy for us. I don't think that sterilizing our environment and dipping our food in bleach is going to help our bodies stay healthy.

I don't know that I "became green". I think I always was green. What changed over the years was why. And truthfully, green IS my favorite color.

We're not getting any younger... the time is now. Why are YOU green?

from Kermit the Frog:

"I'm green, and it'll do fine, and it's beautiful, and I think it's what I want to be"

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Habitat for Humanity Green

So many things about today's post make me proud on a personal level. I invite you to share my personal pride and vote today.

Green America is a fabulous organization. I was gifted a membership from my dear blog friend over at Consciously Frugal last fall and I must say it was one of the coolest gifts I've ever received. Green America sponsors the 2010 Green Grants Contest and my local Habitat for Humanity group is in the top 10 finalists. The grant nominees have demonstrated both social justice and environmental responsibility in their projects. From the nomination page:

Habitat for Humanity of Mahoning County, OH builds simple, decent, affordable and energy-efficient homes in partnership with needy families. Our mission is to work with people of all faiths and all walks of life to help these families realize their dream of home ownership.

To give true meaning to these words, we will embark on a unique building project called "The House of Abraham"* - a project designed to demonstrate that religious, ethnic and racial differences are less important than the common humanity that unites us. The House of Abraham will be a new energy-efficient home sponsored entirely by Christian, Jewish, Muslim - and possibly other - faith communities in our area. No such project has been attempted in Mahoning County before!

The home will be Energy Star rated and will feature the following "green" technologies: CFL bulbs, low-flow toilets and showerheads, a programmable thermostat, advanced framing, DOW blue foam insulation, green attic and wall insulation, and high-efficiency furnaces. In addition, CREE, Inc. has agreed to provide high-efficiency LED downlights for the kitchen. Finally, this home will become the first Habitat house in Mahoning County to recycle and reuse building materials salvaged from vacant or abandoned structures through deconstruction.
It is our hope that The House of Abraham will serve as an enduring example of how different constituencies can work together toward common goals such as social justice and community improvement while being good stewards of our environment. The support from receiving this grant will make it possible for a low-income family to own a new home that is energy-efficient, beautiful, affordable, and built by the loving hands of hundreds of volunteers.

I am so tickled about the premise of the House of Abraham for several personal reasons. Religious unity and tolerance hand in hand with love of our planet and our neighbor is exactly the sort of mission that makes this world a better place. I would be honored if you'd go cast a vote for our local Habitat.

…your name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made you, (Genesis 17:5)

أحب الخاص بك الجدة

Monday, July 12, 2010

Slow Money Green

Every so often, I just read something that makes SENSE (or is that ¢ent$?) I am a huge supporter of shopping and eating local as well as investing in our planet. The Slow Money Alliance brings it all together. (from their mission statement):

Slow Money Principles:

In order to enhance food safety and food security; promote cultural and ecological health and diversity; and, accelerate the transition from an economy based on extraction and consumption to an economy based on preservation and restoration, we do hereby affirm the following Principles :

I. We must bring money back down to earth.

II. There is such a thing as money that is too fast, companies that are too big, finance that is too complex. Therefore, we must slow our money down – not all of it, of course, but enough to matter.

III. The 20th Century economy was an economy of Buy Low / Sell High and Wealth Now / Philanthropy Later –what one venture capitalist called “the largest legal accumulation of wealth in history.” The 21st Century economy will usher in the era of nurture capital, built around principles of carrying capacity, care of the commons, sense of place and non-violence.

IV. We must learn to invest as if food, farms and fertility mattered. We must steer major new sources of capital to small food enterprises.

V. Let us celebrate the new generation of entrepreneurs, consumers and investors who are showing the way from Making A Killing to Making a Living.

VI. Paul Newman said, “I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer who puts back into the soil what he takes out.” Recognizing the wisdom of these words, let us begin rebuilding our economy from the ground up, asking:

• What would the world be like if we invested 50% of our assets within 50 miles of where we live ?

• What if there were a new generation of companies that gave away 50% of their profits ?

• What if there were 50% more organic matter in our soil 50 years from now?
Would you sign the petition?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Canning Green

Since I've begun this blog, I've posted assorted things about eating local, planting a garden and building a compost bin. I have not canned fruits or vegetables since I was a kid. Even then, I was a mere observer to the process, which was filled with warnings and old wives' tales. I grew up convinced that if I did something wrong, we were doomed to the curses of many generations, or at the very least food poisoning. I eschewed the risk in favor of frozen or prepackaged goods.

This year, I'm likely to have a bumper crop of tomatoes. In addition to the ones I planted, my volunteer crop has been especially generous, another reason I love composting my kitchen waste. It's like a lottery of surprise foods the following year. I have volunteer pumpkins and cucumbers, as well.

Until today, I figured I'd just make tomato sauce and freeze it for the winter. But courtesy of my fellow blog sister, with a much greater confidence than I posess, I may do some canning. She has put together what I consider an idiot proof simple, easy to follow guide for canning.
Thank you, Possum Hill Farms for removing the intimidation and inspiring confidence. Happy Canning!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Stop Upgrading Green

This is important enough that I'm just going to post a short lil something about it... but thank my blog sistah for bringing it to my attention.

Consciously Frugal: Tuesday's Tip: Stop Upgrading

The metals that are used to keep us in a constant flow of obsolete gadgets (think: cell phones, digital music players, laptops)... are mined in horrible conditions in Third World countries like the Congo. We need to rethink our "need" if it finances death and mutilation.

Study up on this. It matters.

Declared Energy Independence Green!

Declaring Energy Independence — Citizens of New Orleans and Gulf Coast Respond to BP Oil Spill

While the nation marked Independence Day last weekend with barbeques and fireworks, Global Green forged a new sort of way to commemorate our nation's birthday. A Declaration of Energy Independence. A challenge is issued to each citizen to find ways to use less oil, gas, and petroleum products.

On the local news front, Northeast Ohio is leading the way as Ohio is on track to install the first fresh water wind farm in the U.S. But one region is not enough. We need to form a united effort of person to person, city to city, state to state until the entire nation is collectively United as Americans to say NO to continued avaricious consumption of nonrenewable resources.

What will you do today to carry the torch of Energy Independence?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Wedding Cans Green

I read a story this morning about a couple who paid for their wedding by recycling aluminum cans. What a fabulous idea! I've written in the past about how recycling can not just make the earth greener, but your wallet, also.

Our local middle school has been saving cans to repave the track out of recycled tires and so far the students have raised over half the cost of repaving. They have a rally every year to gather cans from the community, ongoing collection bins and contests between the homerooms. The National Conference of Mayors awarded the students a $5000 grant for their efforts.

Here on Our Daily Green, I've invited my readers to start collecting juice bags and chip wrappers (and many other items) to raise funds via TerraCycle. It's not too late to sign up and enter the giveaway for $50 worth of goodies made from recycled wrappers and bags. The contest runs through July 5th, midnight, EST. Details are on the post I've linked here.

What are some ways you know earn money by recycling?