Thursday, December 31, 2009

So Long For Now

The time has come for me to embark on a new adventure. This journey does not entail traveling anywhere, but rather exploring the place I have come to be, in a new way. I have decided that in 2010 I will try to become as unplugged as possible. In order to do this, I am disconnecting home internet service (Goodbye, Facebook), using a cell phone for emergencies only (Gasp! No texts!), and taking a step even further away from television.

I have come to find that my very favorite parts of my life can not be plugged in or turned on. I am hoping by disconnecting from the technological, I will be reconnecting to the real. Unfortunately, this adventure also includes putting Green Gracious on an indefinite hiatus. I hope that you will not find this as an abandonment. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate you reading and participating in this blog for almost a year now. I hope that you will take whatever you have learned and continue with it in your real lives, and know that I am doing the same.

While I like to believe that Green Gracious is a special little corner of the internet, I have (thankfully) never been alone in my quest to save the planet. You can continue to find green guidance in many places. Here are a few of my favorites:

I will miss all of you very much. I hope that if/when I return, it will be with renewed passion and more lessons to share.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

17 Things

I promised a little while back that I would share more with you about the 17 things that have been found could make a very big difference if every household engaged in them. Turns out, this information is harder to find than I would like. National Geographic covered it a little bit on their blog. And if you are in for some exciting (please sense the sarcasm here) reading, you can peruse the journal article that was published on the subject.

And this all brings me back to the idea that I suggested earlier this year of 9 in 2009. As we look forward to New Year's resolutions, I ask that you look at this list again and try to find 10 for 2010. Doable?

What did you do to become kinder to the Earth this year? What are you planning for next year?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The "Key" To A Great Present

I know I have shared with you before that my husband and I don't really exchange gifts-and we don't. But this year I came up with an idea to brilliant to ignore. I wanted to give my husband a key of some sort to symbolize how he is the key to my happiness, success, etc... Has the key to my heart. And how together we can unlock the mysteries of the universe. But when I went looking for a great key, there wasn't much out there. What I could find wasn't an actual key shape, was far too expensive, wasn't made with the environment in mind, wouldn't last, or any combination of these things.

So I went back to an old standby. To be honest, I don't know why I didn't head to Etsy first, since most of what is good, I have found on there. And I hit the jackpot with Savage Salvage's Shipwrecked Relics pendant. This beautifully masculine creation consists of a salvaged vintage key (protected) and layered on top of an old ivory piano key hung on a vintage brass chain.

To make things even better, it shipped quickly in reused packaging including a darling little box gift wrapped in old sheet music! My husband loves the significance and the piece and it makes me happy every time I see it on him.

If you are in the mood or market for something unique, I would suggest keeping Savage Salvage (and Etsy in general) in mind.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Green Gift Guide: The Final Installment

I feel like now that I have done my due diligence in sharing our family gifting ideas, I can share with you the final installment of the Green Gift Guide. After all, I know a lot of people still have names to cross off the list and if you order soon, everything should arrive in time!

A previous gift guide mentioned my love of the concept of wrapping in reusable. Here is another great way, especially for the crafter, quilter, or seamstress in your life. Use these fabric wraps to literally add a little something to your beautiful present.

An alternative to the cardboard sleeve, this handisleeve allows for a reusable option, a handle, and a little bit of a fashion statement at the same time.
Cloth napkins-A. Fair trade cloth napkins-A+. Beautiful fair trade cloth napkins-yes, please! And just a thought, you could also use these to wrap small treasures!

I just listened to a radio program the other day on the lost art of letter writing. There is something so quaint and sentimental about staying in touch through written word. And if you use this wax seal with soy wax and recycled paper, you are a charming green relic of times past.

A new (and useful) take on the reusable bag, these two sided totes are helpful for the planet and those stylish shoppers on your list.

Oh, how I love upcycling. Have I mentioned this? How adorable are these upcycled, handcrafted clocks? That one is my favorite!

I love a beautiful snarky shirt. I really love this one from Kitten in the Engine. Go visit and pick out your favorite design for the clever girl in your life.

This cute (and BPA + Phthalate free) lunch box encourages creativity and environmental awareness for kids. A great gift for the hungry little ones in your life.


I have tried a few products from Bubble & Bee and am always amazed by the diversity of their skin and body care. I love the idea of receiving (or giving) this sleigh full of personalized organic body care. Now 25% off!

This handcrafted light fixture from Brazilian artisans could definitely make my list and a couple of my rooms. Check out the whole collection.

I hope you enjoyed the Green Gift Guide series. I certainly loved sharing them with you! So now, please share...what are you gifting this season???

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Our Holiday Giving

There is a lot of chatter out there in the green interweb about gifting. Where to buy? What to buy? If to buy? There are so many opinions and perspectives out there to consider...and as this is my blog...let me give you a few more. Here is my take on our family holiday gifting.
  • Probably our most controversial gift policy by far is our policy for the kids. We only get the kids 3(ish) things. 1. Is a fun gift of their choice. I try to get this fair trade/recycled/handmade if possible. 2. Is an educational gift-sometimes of their choice. Same story here. 3. A gift to a charity or gift of volunteering-eventually of their choice as they get old enough. Our thinking here is that our kids will get plenty of gifts and will inevitably have the most fun with the box. We feel the gift of sustainable thinking every year is one in and of itself.
  • On the topic of regifting: I do it. I think it's a good idea if it is done with thoughtfulness. So if you are on my gift list, you may be regifted. But please know I do it with the very best intentions for you and the planet. If I can't regift it and I won't use it/love it-it gets consigned to someone who will. No offense.
  • We have taken to giving all our extended family, photographs for Christmas. The year we started, we gave a nice frame with them and each year we refill the frame. This allows us to keep to a budget and be environmentally conscious at the same time we bring joy (hopefully) to our family.
  • If you read regularly, you know that I don't like to buy new, but I realize sometimes it's the "best" option. When I have to do it, I try to do good with it. I buy local, handmade, organic, recycled, or from someone like Ethical Superstore, or through something like igive which allows you to make a donation with each purchase.
  • This is the first year we have done an advent calendar and the boys LOVE it! I really adore the idea of advent calendar but hate the idea of purchasing nick nacks for each day. So I was thrilled when a friend gave me the idea to put a fun family activity in each day. So far we have had hot cocoa with peppermint stirrers, gone Christmas light spotting, send holiday cards to our friends, watched a Christmas movie, gone to a holiday parade, etc...Not only are we not buying more stuff, we are creating quality time and memories with our family.
I would love to hear from you on some of your creative holiday ideas that are great for your family and the Earth! What are you doing to have true spirit this holiday?

Monday, December 7, 2009

New Preserve New Deal

I have raved about Preserve (Nothing wasted. Everything gained.) in the past. They are great for toothbrushes, kitchen ware, and now, tableware, all made out of recycled material. And now they have gotten even better with the launch of their new website. Easy to navigate, it features new products and helpful information on how to recycle through Preserve. And to make it even better, they are offering free shipping through the end of the year with the coupon code, "HOLIDAY09".

Thursday, December 3, 2009

What Do You Feed Your Skin Every Day?

As I mentioned, we were at my mother-in-law's for the Thanksgiving holiday. While there I was reminded of how many toxic chemicals we have eliminated from our home and how many are still in the homes of others. As I stood in the bathroom getting ready, I looked around at all the products and couldn't help but think about how many chemicals people put on them every day just in the beauty department. Then I thought about all my friends who insist that it's not that much/it can't matter that much. So I thought it might be a helpful exercise just to take a look at how many beauty products the average person uses in a day.
  • Toothpaste
  • Soap/body wash
  • Shave cream
  • Lotion/After shave
  • SPF
  • Face cream
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Hair product
  • Cosmetics
  • Perfume
  • Facial Cleanser
What am I missing? Then you add that all together and multiply it by every day of the year. Just think of all the chemicals that could enter your body! Sometimes when we look at the change one product would make, it doesn't seem like that much. But as we can start to trade up many of these for ourselves and our families, we can really start to make a difference in what we are doing to/for our bodies and our health.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How Crafty

I am not a crafty person (Believe me, I've tried. I have the hot glue gun burn scars to prove it). But I was reminded this weekend how much I enjoy craftiness when I engaged in the annual post-Thanksgiving craft show with my mother-in-law. She has been going for 20 years or so and I have joined her the past couple to bask in the creativity of others. She has one vendor she makes sure to hit first every year. These three sisters take old items and paint them to upcycle them into adorable and one-of-a-kind Christmas decorations. The globe above and "Dear Santa" wall hanging below are both from these crafters. I also had the opportunity to meet a local Michigan artist who upcycles old magazines, art papers, and books into beautiful purses. Someday when I don't have to carry a diaper bag, I am getting one. Most of all, this craft show reminded me how cool it is to get something unique and special to pass down through generations. Even cooler is meeting the people who made these things with their own hands, often using recycled materials. If you get a chance this holiday season, try to do some of your shopping with crafters and artisans. It's a warm fuzzy feeling.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Jodi's Adventures In Natural Cleaning!

Raise your hand if your house is a little dirty after this weekend! Ok, well lucky for you that my friend Jodi has come to the rescue with tales of her adventures in natural cleaning. Jodi recently tried some homemade green cleaning recipes for her shower and oven (Hello! Oven!). Here is how it worked out in Jodi's own words:

pic #1 - some hard water stains on the floor in my standing shower. I covered them in salt and squeezed some fresh lime juice on it (cut a lime in half, squeezed it over the stains). Let it sit for 10 min or so.pic #2 - viola! scrub (with the lime rind), rinse with water, and gone!
pic #3 - My gross oven door on the inside (so embarrassing!!!). I did a little area to test my scrubbing solution and then took this pic to compare. I did a mix of 3/4 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup salt, 1/4 cup water. I let the mix sit overnight. In the morning I scrubbed. It was pretty caked on there, but it didn't take a TON of arm work to scrub it off. So in this pic you can see the corner I did the first night, and the rest of the oven door.
pics #4 and #5 - I then covered the rest of the oven door with the mixture, the next night, let it sit, and then scrubbed in the morning. In the 5th pic you can see it coming off as I scrubbed with the sponge.
pic #6 - the door now. It could probably use another coating of the mix on there to completely clear it off, but I haven't done that yet. You can totally tell the difference now.
Jodi deals with hard rusty water, a hunter husband, and three kids and is slowly but surely learning that even with all of that-maybe because of it-green works!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Nature of Beauty (NOB) Black Friday Sale

Another great source for green beauty, The Nature of Beauty, is having a Black Friday Sale. Get the items pictured above free with any purchase of $100 or more. Even better-get free shipping all day Friday with the coupon code "BLACKFRIDAY"

Get beautiful, give beautiful, make it good for you and the planet!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Trillium Organics Black Friday Sale

Trillium Organics, home to a whole line of organic body products in different scents is having a big Black Friday sale. This would be a great time to switch over to some organic body care or give the gift of organic to a loved one. Friday only, save 33% on orders $100 or more with the coupon code "greenday".

Also check out the other specials they are running right now through December 16th.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Green Gift Guide: Part 2

The Green Gift Guide is back with part 2. I hope you are enjoying exploring what's out there as much as I am!

I have told you before about the wonderful historic mint farm. Now in addition to getting your organic peppermint and spearmint oils, you can also get organic lip balm!

There is nothing in A Bushel and A Peck that I don't love. But since I got shorter hair (I donated 9 inches!) I really am lusting after these hair pins. They are on my wish list and I don't know many ladies that wouldn't love them.

And because I love A Bushel and A Peck so much I am including another item, which I personally wouldn't mind receiving this year. This apron is so beautiful you hardly want to get it dirty, but at least you'll look cute doing it.

I have mentioned how much I love tea before. So when I saw this organic Green & White tea set from Rishi's Tea I was sold. Especially considering that I just read an article on how drinking green tea can help your skin be beautiful. Yes, please.

It hasn't snowed yet here in Michigan, but it's only a matter of time. And I know a number of places have already seen some. So people are in search of boots. Planet Shoes offers this eco-friendly, yet stylish pair made from organic, reused, and sustainable sources.

One of the things I love about shopping for green gifts is the ingenuity one finds. Like this purse made from an upcycled cigar box! Brilliant and beautiful!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Going Philosophical On You

I have seen/heard a couple of things lately that have gotten me thinking. The first was about a study done a Michigan State University professor listing 17 steps every person (or family) can take to help make the environment a better place. (Blog post to come on this soon) I heard an interview with him in which he was explaining what a difference it could make in carbon emissions if everyone just did a couple of these things.

The second thing that caught my eye this week was an article in Natural Home Magazine (Yes, I got a subscription! Thanks mom!). The article featured, Annie Leonard, "Story of Stuff" creator, and her views on overconsumption and simplicity. In the article, she says, "Even if we could convince every single person to always choose the most environmentally responsible option-it isn't enough. We must get involved with organizations engaging for broader systematic change."

So these are two mixed messages right? On one hand, we can make such a difference if we take even simple steps and on the other, even all the steps done by everyone won't be enough. This is something I struggle with, because here at Green Gracious I give you really simple ways to make changes that will undoubtedly help the environment. The question is just, how much? When I read comments like Annie Leonard's, I'll admit, I wonder if it's even worth it to keep trying to get people to make even the littlest changes-to take any of the 17 steps.

And then I get a grip and remind myself of a few things:
1. The changes you can make to help the environment, also help you. Eliminating toxic products from our lives will save the Earth and us. Living more simply will save the Earth and your wallet. Eating less animals more veggies from more local sources will make you and the planet healthier.
2. It is these small changes in people that eventually add up to more drastic changes. A decade ago, almost no one knew the term climate change. Now there isn't a day that goes by that most people don't hear it. And people making changes in their homes will lead to them making changes in policy, systems, and expectations for society.
3. "Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed citizens to change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead

In 2007, "The Story of Stuff" went viral and was seen by over 6.5 million people. Next year Annie Leonard releases her book based on the same concept. Despite her comments, she hasn't given up. And I won't either.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Trying Out Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes

Let me share with you my Thanksgiving dilemma. It has nothing to do with the environment (except in the way that everything does, of course) but it is what brings me t0-gasp-cook! Every holiday we go to my mother-in-laws and my husband and brother-in-laws all succeed in turning back into 10 year-old boys as we prepare for company to arrive. That is stress I am bowing out of this year. But because I (gladly) won't be there for cleaning duties and will be arriving with others who are bringing dishes, I feel the need to contribute.

So this week I am testing out a couple vegan Thanksgiving recipes with the hopes of finding something I can make acceptable enough to offer to the meal. First up, vegan green bean casserole. This twist on the old favorite utilizes veggie broth, soy milk, and flour in place of cream of mushroom soup. This is not nearly as difficult as it sounds and, with the exception of preparing the beans, was very quick and easy to make. The end result needs a little more seasoning but Everett (the only other person in this house willing to eat green veggies) and I really enjoyed it. Add to that the fact that it is really quite healthy and I think we have a competitor! It would be even healthier if I could find a healthy yet yummy alternative to french fried onions...anyone?