Friday, July 31, 2009

Sustainability in a Slurpee Straw

I love Slurpees.  If you are unfamiliar with them, these are the joyful frozen slushy drink found in giant sizes (they offer small sizes, but why?) at 7-Eleven stores.  I know they are bad for me and the environment, but they are a vice I almost always indulge in when I visit the east side of Michigan (7-Elevens are few and far over here on the west side). 

This time I was greeted with not only the sweet frozen bliss of my slurpee, but also a small sign of sustainability in the world of convenience.  7-Eleven now offers aluminum straws to reuse with your slurpee purchases.   I am sure when they created these, they weren't necessarily thinking about the Earth aspect.  And most people purchasing them probably don't consider it either.  But that doesn't change the fact that every time the straw is purchased and reused, it saves another plastic straw from being made and disposed of.

My bright green aluminum slurpee straw now sits in my diaper bag waiting to be pulled out at the movie theater, gas station, and random restaurant stops.  It's my simple, 99 cent step towards slightly less plastic consumption.  

Do you have a reusable straw?  Have you thought about getting one?  Will you now?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Old is New Again

I know that I have reflected here on the glory of bringing back something from the past for use in the present.  This joy presented itself again in a surprise way this weekend when we visited a family friend.  Upon arriving at their house, Tucker promptly asked his default question, "Where are your toys?"  I tried explaining to Tucker that they may not have toys around (given that the youngest child is 23) to no avail.  Lucky for all of us that the oldest kid had kept all of his favorite toys, including the very first toy he ever picked out-a spiky two-headed dinosaur-and one of my brother's old toy's that was given to Tucker.

This abandoned Wolverine toy (which Tucker quickly named "Harry") was in perfect condition and instantly became a favorite.  A stamp on Harry tells us that he was made in 1991, making him 18 years old.  But this teenage toy brought as much joy to my son's face as if we had purchased it especially for him that day, maybe more because it was such a surprise.  

By keeping his toys, this man had kept trash out of the landfill, memories fresh in our minds, and brought renewed joy to yet another little boy.  Now I am not saying that you should keep every little thing.  I am a clutter buster and realize that it isn't practical to hang onto everything.  But perhaps stories like this will help us think twice before we buy the "latest and greatest" toy.  Will it hold up for 18 years?  Is it something we would want to give our children?  Could generations derive joy from it?  Maybe these few questions can help us decrease consumerism and waste while preserving memories and the Earth.

Monday, July 27, 2009


I am sitting here this evening sipping homemade peppermint iced tea and resting after a very busy weekend.  The boys and I traveled across Michigan to visit my family (in from Arizona) and attend a bridal shower.  Throughout the tip I picked a could green things to share with you this week.  

The first is about reusable bags.  I have mentioned these before.  I am a big fan of Envirosax and take them everywhere with me (via car console).  More and more people are taking the plunge to buy reusable bags and take them grocery shopping, but it's helpful to expand your thinking and really get the most out of the reusable bag.

One way we use them is we always have a few when we travel to put dirty clothes in.  This helps me keep clean and dirty threads (I got that one from my 12 year-old brother this weekend) separate and have an easy way to get them in the wash when we get home.  The Envirosax are particularly great because their slippery fabric makes it perfect for holding wet swimsuits and such.  

What are some other ways you have reused your bags?  Any green traveling tips to share?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sticky Note Solution

I have a confession to make.  I am a list person.  To-do lists, grocery lists, life lists, you name it, I've written one (today).  But writing lists often wastes paper, so I am finding a less wasteful way to feed my list compulsion.  

If you were to look at my laptop right now you would find several electronic sticky notes outlining my many lists.  I think I may even have a list of my lists.  This feature comes on my mac but PC users can get electronic stickies as well.  

It may be a tiny step even for the most prolific of list makers, but each tiny step makes a difference.  

Please tell me I am not the only list-aholic?  Has anyone tried something like this?  Do you enjoy it?  

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A better bandage

My poor little toes are screaming in pain.  I unintentionally tortured them by making a poor shoe choice for work the other night.  My tiny toes now sport matching blisters worn raw...appealing image, I know. 

I tell you all of this because as I broke out the bandages today to put those toes on the road to healing, I thought of all of you.  The bandages I placed on my tootsies today are Ecoguard Bandages.  These particular bandages are latex free, use no animal testing, and use something called Natural Action Wave to eliminate over 85% of conventional production waste. I found them at Whole Foods and I marvel at the fact that there are even bandages making the planet better.  A tiny reminder that you can help make a difference with every purchase.   

Has anyone tried a form of eco-bandage?  What is a super small eco-change or purchase you were able to make?

Monday, July 20, 2009


I'm home watching DVDs with my hubby tonight.  We couldn't seem to get the Netflix coordinated to get something on our list here on time.  By the way-Netflix is a very good eco-idea, but more on that later.  Because this time, I was thinking about this great service we use called swap-a-dvd, which is where we got the gem we are watching now.  

We do own a few DVDs, some of which we don't exactly enjoy or watch.  These have usually been given to us by well-meaning friends.  We appreciate the sentiment, but we still don't care for the DVDs.  Swap-a-DVD is a website that allows you to list such misfit DVDs.  Other people can then request those from you.  When a DVD is requested, you print out a wrapper (which can include postage if you like) and mail out the DVD.  This then gives you a credit to request a DVD you do desire from someone else and for the meager price of shipping, you have yourself a new-to-you DVD.  And even better (to me) is that you save the planet another disk.  

This service is also available for CDs and books.  Which is the same exact concept but with books.  Which I also love.  Has anyone ever tried this?  What did you think?  Any good recommendations for my DVD or book lists?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Green Gracious Flea Market 7.16.09

Over the past few months I have been collecting info on all kinds of cool Earth-friendly shopping finds.  I have decided to share them with you in what I am calling the Green Gracious Flea Market.   

Traveling this summer?  Think about buying luggage made from 100% recycled plastic.  
Get a great summer bag, made out of newspaper by women handcrafters and stay super stylish this summer.
The Narwhal Company has all kinds of cool recycled accessories, but my personal favorite is the wrist wear.
Summer is a time to stay hydrated and you know how I feel about reusable water bottles.  Check out this one from Kor which is BPA and chemical free and donates 1 percent of sales to environmental issues.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Review: Pit Putty

My quest for the perfect eco/Willo-friendly deodorant continues with what turns out to be, as my young friends would call it, an epic fail. I really wanted to love Pit Putty. I had heard other green bloggers and environmentally aware people raving about how it was the only thing that worked for them. Unfortunately, I couldn't get it to work for me at all.

It started out well. The Bubble and Bee website is fun, friendly, and easy to order from. My products arrived in eco-conscious reused paper with not a shred of plastic in site. The trouble came when I first tried to use the product.

I struggled to push it up in the deodorant stick in order to rub it on. It came out in a white crumbly mess. I showed my husband who kindly (ok, patronizingly) pointed to the label where it instructed me to rub it in with my hands. Not a fan of deodorized fingers. I know-this coming from the woman who promotes earth friendly women's products-but I honestly just couldn't get into the habit of having to rub this in every day. And even then it got on my clothing.

Add to that the fact that it didn't work very well at all and melted to an un-appliable mess when I tried to take it to Relay for Life and I was done. I tried. I did. I don't know why I seem to be the only green blogger who can't get on board with the Pit Putty, but there it is.

Has anyone tried this? What were your experiences? Any more suggestions for eco arm pits?

Monday, July 13, 2009

DVD Drink Menu

On Friday night my girlfriends and I went to an art hop and local restaurant called The Union for Mom's Night Out.  The whole evening was a blast, but one of the highlights for me was definitely the restaurants unique drink menu.  The folks at The Union reuse DVD cases to display the drink menu.  Just imagine the money and resources they probably saved using their imaginations this way.  I don't know about anyone else, but drinks definitely look better to me displayed in this manner!

Do you have any cool stories about green-spotting at restaurants?  Any ingenious ideas the restaurant business should borrow?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Discount Distress

Today I was listening to NPR (a daily vice of mine) and I heard an interview with Ellen Ruppel Shell, author of the new book "Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture."  I was fascinated with what she had to say about what the quest for low prices is doing to our society.  

There wasn't a lot of talk in the interview on the environment, but she did mention that the discount culture plays a negative role there as well.  There was a caller who brought up second-hand stores, which the author highly praised for the quality of things made in the past, as opposed to crank-em-out disposable products today.

That crank-em-out culture is definitely taking a toll on our Earth and the only way to end it is to educate ourselves and our children.  This book seems like a first step in doing that and I look forward to reading it.

Has anyone else read it?  Anything similar?  Any thoughts on the discount culture?  It's effects on the environment?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Rewards of Repair

Today my vacuum came home.  My poor purple Dyson was the victim of my mom's constant meddling which caused the whole brush and belt to be ruined.  My first instinct was to run out and buy a new one because life without a vacuum here between dog and boys is unimaginable.  

But then I remembered seeing a sign for a store nearby (well, relatively nearby given our location) called VacWorld.  I was pleasantly surprised to find a website and learn that they could probably help us for much less then the cost of a new vacuum.  

With the return of my vacuum in like-new condition, it occurs to me that repair is way underrated.  We live in a society where we are easily distracted and indebted to shiny new things.  But shiny new things aren't always best for us and the environment.  So slowly step away from the credit cards and consider some of the rewards of repair:
  • Support local business.  VacWorld is a little family business that has been in operation for over 35 years.  By taking my repair work there, I support the local economy.  Which is a whole other green conversation in and of itself.
  • Maintain a sense of history.  Ok, my Dyson and I don't have treasure trove of valuable memories behind us (yet), but many items you own might.  By having your furniture, clocks, jewelry, artwork, etc...repaired instead of replaced, you preserve and add to the story of that item.  Stories, like repair, are far too underrated these days.
  • Save $.  My vacuum repair certainly wasn't free, but as I mentioned, it did cost far less then a new vacuum would have.  In most cases, getting something repaired will be as efficient and far more cost effective then buying new.
  • Preserve the Earth.  Of course.  Every new item made means more resources used (or wasted if it could be repaired) and more trash headed to landfills.  
What have you had repaired?  Any great stories about saving the story of an item?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Nocturnal Energy Use

At work the other day I was having a conversation with my boss about laundry.  It surprised me that we are both night-time laundresses.   Why?  Because it helps the planet, and maybe your pocketbook to use energy at "off" times, like at night.  

Here's how it works, every time you flip a switch or fill a washing machine, that power is tapping a plant (usually coal run) somewhere.  If everyone does this at once ("peak" times), more power plants have to go online.  And with more people using energy then ever before, more power plants are having to be built to accommodate this peak usage, meaning, more energy used.    Peak times range based on season, but are generally between 3:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.  

Many energy companies charge less for energy during mid-peak or off-peak times.  Which means just by contacting your energy company for information on the getting enrolled and switching a few habits, you can gain the double eco-whammy of money and Earth saved!  

Here are a few things we do around here just to make sure we are taking full advantage of off-peak energy times:
  • Charge all electronics (computers, cell phones, cameras, etc...) at night.
  • Throw in laundry before bed, hang dry in the morning.
  • Wash dishes at night.
  • Take full advantage of longer days and keep lights out as long as possible.  Heck, sometimes we never turn them on.
Also consider night-time use of:
  • Dishwashers
  • Sprinkler systems
  • TV, radios, etc...
Has anyone taken advantage of this?  What was your experience like?  Is anyone planning on it?  What did I miss that is a great use of nocturnal energy?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Fill 'er up!

How many of you have stopped at a gas station/convenience store in the past week and gotten a coffee or soda?  Now imagine that week after week all over the world.  Disposable cups are BAD news.  According to pic-usa, billions of them end of in landfills each year, more then 50 million trees are used making these cups each year, and the petrochemicals used to make the cups used each year could heat over 8300 homes.  Let me remind you that this is EACH YEAR!

So I was over the moon with joy when my husband and I stopped by our local gas station and learned that they will refill any cup size for $1.  Once again, saving the Earth will save us money.  And it's smart business sense because now that I know that, you can bet I will be giving this particular gas station our business on a regular basis.

Now I figure if we have an option like this in the little ol' village of Vicksburg, some of you must have something similar?  Anything?  You may need to ask.  But it's well worth your while, your money, and your eco-consciousness to ask the question and keep looking for this option.  

Monday, July 6, 2009

Coming back!

I want to thank all of you for your kind words and honest opinions.  It is with this encouragement that I will continue to update Green Gracious as often as I can!

We just returned home from a weekend in Lake City, Michigan (the picture above is from a 365 acre Christmas Tree farm a family friend owns there) and are busy unpacking and getting back to business.  Stay tuned and I hope to have a new tip or two posted soon.

Thanks again!