Do Personal Changes Matter? Yes, yes, yes!

>> Thursday, August 27, 2009

Do personal changes matter?

That seems to be the big question circulating around the green blogosphere this month.

First, there was the Orion Magazine article, Forget Shorter Showers: Why personal change does not equal political change, in which the author asserts:

I’m not saying we shouldn’t live simply. I live reasonably simply myself, but I don’t pretend that not buying much (or not driving much, or not having kids) is a powerful political act, or that it’s deeply revolutionary. It’s not. Personal change doesn’t equal social change.
Then there was this article in the New Yorker where Elizabeth Kolbert criticizes No Impact Man's "eco-stunt:"
So committed is Beavan to his claim of zero impact that he can’t—or won’t—see the deforestation for the trees. He worries a great deal about the environmental consequences of Michelle’s tampon use and the shrink-wrap around a block of cheese. But when it comes to his building’s heating system, which is apparently so wasteful that people are opening windows in the middle of winter, he just throws up his hands.
(Reading this article, I wanted to rush to No Impact Man's defense - his experiment did matter because of all the people he has influenced...Me! for one. But Kolbert also describes the eco-stunts of a couple other popular environmentalist writers, and I was completely turned off by her descriptions of Vanessa Farquharson, whose book I had on my to-read list.)

Grist mentioned the Kolbert article twice (here and here), and also ran a piece about Henry David Thoreau referring to the same biography of Thoreau that Kolbert discusses in her critique of eco-stunts (Walden Pond being the first and most famous eco-stunt).

Fake Plastic Fish took up the argument on Wednesday, listing several bloggers responses to the Orion article, and then interviewed Diane MacEachern of Big Green Purse for her post today. Diane defends using consumer power as a political act by stating:
For thirty years, my focus was really on public policy. I thought passing laws to address environmental issues was the most effective way to make a difference. We still need stronger laws, and enforcement of regulations on the books. But the last few years, I've become convinced that the marketplace moves faster than the halls of Congress! Companies fight legislation tooth and nail - but consumer dollars are their lifeblood. If we use our money to make a difference, we can accelerate the transition to a cleaner, greener world.

So what are my thoughts on the subject?

1) Personal change leads to political change.

Personal change probably doesn't matter very much. The author of the Orion article points out that the majority of waste and energy use comes from commercial, industrial, and agricultural sources, so personal changes are just a drop in the bucket.

That's true, but the people who are taking shorter showers, recycling, and bicycling are also the people who are lobbying for water, land, and resource conservation and proposing solutions like cap and trade. Personal change is like a gateway drug. You start with the easy stuff by greening your own life, and pretty soon you're looking around for some harder drugs to ease your addiction: "Now how can I help my office go green? Or my school? Or my city? Or my country?"

I've pointed out before that real wide-scale changes will require organization and policy change, but those big changes start with individuals making a choice to live differently.

2) Corporations are people too.

We have a tendency as environmentalists to anthropomorphize corporations, labeling them as "good" and "evil" as if a corporation has the ability to make good or bad decisions. Corporations do not make decisions. They are made up of individuals who make decisions - ordinary people who are just as capable as you or I to make personal choices about water use, energy consumption, and waste management. But whereas my decision to go green affects very few beyond my small sphere of influence, if the executives of Walmart decide to go green, it has a monumental impact.

And why would the executives of Walmart decide to go green? Maybe in part because they care about the environment, but it's more likely because they recognize the economic value of a green image and green products. They are responding to consumer demand.

The author of the Orion article doesn't want us to label ourselves as consumers because "we reduce our potential forms of resistance to consuming and not consuming." He's right that we have many other "resistance tactics" available to us, but it's wrong to say that consuming is an invalid method of protest.

We are consumers, and because we consume, we have immense power. We can choose to buy a product because of the materials it's made of. We can choose to buy a product because it's less toxic. We can choose to buy a product because it's made in a safe, fair environment. And we can choose not to buy a product at all.

We do have power as consumers, and when enough people choose to wield that power, the marketplace listens. Corporations have to listen, or they will die.

3) It matters to me.

I made my very first environmentally related decision twelve years ago when I became a vegetarian. It was a major lifestyle change, but I didn't do it because I expected my actions to have a huge rippling effect or that my personal choice would change the meat industry. I did it because I personally could not feel good about eating an animal that was raised and slaughtered inhumanely. My decision to give up meat was not based on a desire to change the world. I became a vegetarian because I believed it was the right thing to do.

Every eco-related choice I've made since then has followed the same line of reasoning. I hope that my actions will influence others. I try to be involved in my community so I can effect change not just in my own life, but in the world around me. But what matters most is that I'm being the best person I can be.

I intended to write this post last week for one of my Weekend Ramblings, but I never got around it it. So many people have blogged on this topic since then that I feel like I'm late to the party, and it would have been easy to say, "There's nothing left to say." But because I believe in the power of personal change, I believe my voice matters. So here I am, adding my individual voice to all the others, asserting that my changes matter. Your changes matter. Our collective changes can make a better, greener world.

Photo by Marco Belluci

This post was included in the Carnival of the Green #195 at EcoTechDaily.


Noteworthy Green: Future Gardener, Vertical Farms, 24 Omelets, and More...

>> Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Check out my latest post at The Green Phone Booth: Future Gardener Seeks Guidance.

This post is basically the exact opposite of Green Bean's post where she included all those amazing pictures of her yard. Here's Green Bean's yard. Here's mine.

We just moved into this house two months ago, and although we're renting, our wonderful landlords said, "Go right ahead," when we asked if we could plant a garden. I'm a serious plan-ahead kind of girl, so okay, okay, I know its months away from Spring, but I've got to be ready! Read more...
And elsewhere on the Internet:

:: Grist tells us how to respond to people's excuses for not switching to CFLs. Are you reading this, Mom? :)

:: The New York Times discusses a proposal by some environmental groups to pay farmers in Brazil to leave their land forested rather than raze it for farmland.

:: Nicholas D. Kristoff at The New York Times says that industrial agriculture has no soul. I enjoyed this editorial especially for the story he tells about putting a chicken egg in a goose's nest when he was a child.

:: has put together a family eco-challenge to inspire your family to care for the environment. And participants are eligible for a shopping spree at

:: Dickson D. Despommier at The New York Times describes the benefits of vertical farming. The idea of vertical farms intrigues me, though I still have some questions about it.

:: Craft Stew lists "24 Ways to Fill an Omelet" and "33 Ways to Spread a Bagel."


A Momentous Occasion...I Finally Joined Twitter

>> Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Well, folks. I did it. After being a long avowed Twitter hater, I finally broke down and joined Twitter. And I can explain why in four simple words: I got an iPhone.

Remember that post about how I needed a new laptop? Well, my cell phone also broke at about the same time (and I mean literally broke - the screen cracked.) I went without for two months, driving my mother mad because she could never reach me, while I debated all sorts of computer and cell phone related solutions. I finally decided to go with the iPhone because it can do most of what I did on my laptop but it fits better in my purse. What the iPhone can't do, I'm doing on our old desktop, and when it dies (any day now), I'm getting a Mac.

But one problem I've found with the iPhone so far is that Blogger doesn't work on it, so my usual way of keeping track of links I like for my Noteworthy Green posts isn't working anymore. And that's where Twitter comes in.

I'm still trying to figure it out, and it's still possible that my Twitter hate will take over and I'll abandon the whole idea. But if you're looking for me on Twitter, I'm "consciousshoppr" - note no "e" in the shopper part. Stupid Twitter says my username is too long.

And if you have any tips for figuring out this Twitter thing, I'm all ears.


Book Review: Worms Eat My Garbage

>> Monday, August 24, 2009

Worms Eat My Garbage
by Mary Appelhof

Rating: *****


Appelhof's classic guide to vermicomposting is the definitive resource for anyone interested in starting a worm bin. Short and easy to read with clever illustrations, Worms Eat My Garbage includes information on what kind of container and worms to use, how to set up a worm bin, how to feed your worms, and how to harvest your compost. As a bonus, Appelhof also includes frequently asked questions about worms, including how they eat, poop, and reproduce. This is definitely the only book about vermicomposting you will ever need.

Here's just a sampling of the information in this book:

Why choose a worm bin?

  • Because of the worms' high rate of digestion, a worm bin can be much smaller than a regular compost bin, and you can keep it indoors, enabling you to compost year round. Composting allows you to turn your kitchen food waste into valuable fertilizer for your garden rather than adding it to a landfill. You can also save energy and water through composting by avoiding use of a garbage disposal.
What size container should I use?
  • "Plan on one square foot of surface for each pound of garbage per week."
How many worms do I need?
  • Appelhof recommends a 2:1 ratio of worms to garbage. In other words, you need 2 pounds of worms for every pound of garbage you produce a day.
What can I put in my worm bin?
  • Yes!....vegetables, fruits, coffee grinds, tea leaves, pulvarized egg shells
  • No!...too much citrus, meat, bones, feces, preferably no dairy (stinky and attracts flies, mice, ants, and rats)
How do I use my compost?
  • top dressing
  • transplants (sprinkle in the bottom of each hole)
  • seed beds (spread in a row)
  • potting soil (mix with peat moss, perlite, and sand or garden soil)
Note that this is just a tiny example of the information in Worms Eat My Garbage. I strongly recommend reading this book yourself if you are interested in worm bins.

My Opinion

This book was even better than I expected. It's a perfect introduction and guide to vermicomposting, and I now feel ready to get my worm bin started. Right now, the thing holding us back is the amount of newspaper we need. We don't subscribe to the local paper, so it's a matter of saving up the bits of junk newspaper that come in the mail. Appelhof says you can use regular printer paper but that newspaper works better, and since I've read of others who failed at vermicomposting, I want to make sure I do it right from the start. Would it be worth subscribing to the newspaper just to get paper for my worm bin? Or does anyone else know of a good source of newspaper?

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Noteworthy Green: Big Green Move, The Omnivore's Delusion, Superhero Capes, and More...

>> Thursday, August 20, 2009

Check out my latest post at The Green Phone Booth: The Big Green Move Checklist.

My husband and I have moved six times in the seven and a half years of our marriage, and I'm sick, sick, sick of moving. Every move has its annoying qualities, but this one has been particularly annoying because I focused so much during the last year on greening our life, and I feel like in many ways I'm starting all over. Except that I can't remember what it was I did in the first place.

I'm a big fan of itemized lists with little boxes for checking, so I decided that what I need is a "green moving list." And since JessTrev is in the middle of a move and a Green Phone Booth reader (Cath) commented on my last post that she will be moving soon also, I thought I'd make this list available to all of you as well. Read more...
And elsewhere on the Internet:

:: Tom Philpott at Grist responds to "The Omnivore's Delusion: Against the Agri-Intellectuals" (a popular article that attempted to debunk the sustainable food movement).

:: Imagine Childhood has directions for how to make a butterfly net.

:: Floating World Views provides instructions for making a child's superhero cape.

:: Peppermags shows us some solar power tiles that blend into a clay-roofing system such as on Spanish style homes. Pretty cool!

:: Renaissance Garden reveals that "all the tote bags received at Old Navy come wrapped in individual plastic bags which are removed and discarded prior to being displayed." Holy cow!


The Reason I Don't Go to Target Anymore

>> Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I had to swing over to Target today to fill First Son's school supply list, and besides glue, pencils, and crayons, I walked out of the store with a gift for my husband (that I'm holding on to until Christmas) and a silicone "brownie cup" pan that we're using to make popsicles. Because we were running late, we also had lunch at the little Target restaurant. Plus, any time I pass by the clothing department at Target, I feel like a total fashion dweeb and am reminded of how much I like Target clothing (so much so that half the time when I pick something out at the thrift store, it turns out to be a Target brand - or from The Gap.)

When I'm not at Target, I don't feel any desire to buy those things. And that is the reason I try not to go to Target anymore.


Milk Dud or Milk Stud?

>> Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The following is a guest post by my friend Maren from Dori's Diner. Maren and her family moved in to Maryland about the time that we were deciding to move out, so we didn't get to know each other well until we both started reading each other's blogs. Now, I consider her one of my best blogging buddies, and I'm excited to get to share her thoughts with you today.

Choosing to breastfeed my kids wasn’t much of a choice. After all, I knew the benefits, both physical & financial. For instance, I knew that infant formula was an imperfect substitute for breast milk, especially considering that the exact properties of breast milk aren’t yet even known. I also knew that breast milk plays an important role in the growth of an infant’s immune system and is one of the main sources of germ protection for the vulnerable first 6 months of life.

Monetarily, I knew that formula was pricey with an annual range of $648 to $2800 depending on the brand and type of formula used for the recommended first year of life compared to the negligible amount needed to increase a breastfeeding mother’s diet. And that’s not counting all the bottles, nipples, liners, etc used to deliver the formula.

As I became more environmentally aware, I realized that breastfeeding also fell into the category of being environmentally conscious. I first considered the cost of producing, marketing, and distributing the formula, as well as the cost of tending to the waste after feeding (plastic lids, cans, wrappers, and bottle liners, some of which are recyclable, and some which are not).

I also realized that as with most prepared foods, infant formula was subject to contaminations, sloppy handling techniques, and other biological hazards of the food industry. Considering that 99% of the formula market is produced by only three major brands: Nestle (Good Start), Abbott Labs (Similac), & Mead Johnson (Enfamil), I felt the twinge of fear that anyone feels when in the presence of a large oligopoly that likely does not carry out sustainable initiatives, even if they do give it lip-service.

Armed with all this information, I committed at the end of my first pregnancy to breastfeed my child for at least a year, as well as all future children. Four children later, I realized that simply choosing to breastfeed is not enough to make it happen.

The problems started immediately with a fussy little girl who refused to latch on. Later, anatomical problems were discovered, but at that point, I had resigned myself to formula and shelling out the big bucks for a year. When my second daughter appeared, we seemed to have bypassed some of the earlier issues, but ran into new ones that terminated our otherwise healthy breastfeeding relationship after just a few weeks. (Post-partum depression & poor health.)

Call me stubborn, but when I was pregnant with my third daughter, I was determined to stick it out for at least a few months, even if it meant pumping exclusively. Stubborn I might have been, but nothing compared to the will-power of daughter number three who was born early and small, and had trouble suckling from the breast. I pumped for 5 weeks, trying every few days to latch her on, until one night, when she was tired and hungry, but not frantic, she latched on and never looked back. I breastfed her for 14 months, when I finally weaned her.

What was the turning point? An ugly round of mastitis, a common breast-infection that some women are more prone to than others. Because breastfeeding, as opposed to pumping or formula feeding, is one of the best remedies for mastitis, I found myself even more committed to making it work. And this was despite many people’s insistence that I should quit and move to formula exclusively. Armed with confidence, I pumped with daughter number four for three weeks before she was able to latch on and nurse exclusively.

As I look forward to my fifth child, I realize a few important things:

  1. Breastfeeding is best, not just because of cost & physical benefits, and satisfying bond but also because of it’s sustainability within the environment and the marketplace.
  2. With adequate education, support, and ability, most women can breastfeed if that is what they desire. Ideally, most women would breastfeed if they were educated in the how-to’s and why’s of breastfeeding exclusively for at least the first 6-months (per WHO’s recommendation).
  3. Formula feeding is not ideal for a number of reasons, but is a necessary alternative for hose who cannot (for a number of varying reasons) breastfeed or must supplement. However, more sustainable alternatives need to be developed.
Some solutions that seem ideal include:
  • Breastfeeding exclusively for at least the first 6 months of the infant’s life. If necessary, using a pump and bottles to give the mother breaks to sleep, etc.
  • If this is not possible, or supplementation is needed, consider purchasing an organic formula (and supporting the companies that sell & distribute them) that is not produced by one of the big three companies, such as Earth’s Best or Bright Beginnings. If you’re ambitious, consider making your own formula!
  • Wet Nursing or Cross-Nursing: once accepted, these practices of temporarily nursing a friend or family member’s baby (cross-nursing) or hiring someone to nurse your baby long-term (wet nurse) have fallen by the wayside. Fear of disease & a pervasive sexual stigma tend to cause people in the Western world to cringe when thinking about nursing another’s baby. And yet both cross- and wet nursing are making a small comeback as more Western women are becoming aware of the many benefits of breast milk. Currently, the La Leche League discourages wet & cross-nursing for a number of reasons (including diminished milk supply in the birth mom, disease, etc), but there are still many women who have had successful shared nursing experiences. On a personal note, I used some of a very close friend’s frozen milk supply when working my third daughter to my breast. Of course, I knew this friend well enough to trust that her milk was clean and suitable for my newborn.
  • Banks: another suitable alternative to breastfeeding that is often used for infants that require breast milk but cannot get it from their mother. There are only 10 in the United States, mainly because of the social stigma and the enormous cost of collecting, screening, pasteurizing, and delivering the donated human milk.
There is no perfect world and certainly no one-size-fits-all solution to the many different lifestyles each mother leads. I also don’t consider myself a breast-feeding radical—I know firsthand how very difficult it can be for so many different reasons, and excess guilt isn’t healthy. However, I believe that an educated woman will find many good reasons to work at a satisfactory breast-feeding relationship, something that is good for mom & baby and the environment as well.

Photo by Daquella manera

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August Round-Up

>> Monday, August 17, 2009

Last month, I mentioned that we're in a transitional phase with the budget because we recently moved from an apartment to a house, and I'm trying to work out the numbers. Last month, I couldn't finalize the categories for energy and water because we hadn't gotten full month's bills yet. Those are finalized now, but I discovered that we now have a recycling bill as part of the water bill - I guess the apartment complex covered that before.

The other change is that I decided to start including specific numbers for our energy and water. I know that rates vary across the country, so the amount we pay might mean nothing to most of you. Hopefully, including the numbers will make it easier to judge how I'm doing and compare your own numbers.

Finally, I'm going to stop including the "Changes I Made" and "Goals" sections in the round-up since I've pretty much "gone green" and haven't been making goals lately. Instead, I'll be doing "Best of" and "Next Month I'll Be..." sections.

Monthly Spending (budgeted amount in parentheses)

  • Groceries: $650.01 ($650)
  • Transportation: $222.54 ($150)
  • Energy: $135.72 ($150)
  • Utilities: $58.50 ($50)
  • Entertainment/Miscellaneous: $299.47 ($400)
  • Clothes: $0 (no set budget)
  • TOTAL: $1,366.24 ($1,400)

The Numbers:
  • Trash: 4 bags of trash (13 gallon bags); 1 recycling bin with plastic, metal, and glass; 2 paper grocery sacks of paper
  • Average daily electricity use: 33 kWh
  • Average daily water use: 111 gallons

Best of...

Next Month I'll Be...
  • Shopping for school supplies (my baby starts kindergarten)
  • Starting a worm bin (I swear this time I really am!)
  • Going camping
  • Mapping out my garden
  • Reading Nickel and Dimed


Late Summer Seasonal Recipes

>> Thursday, August 13, 2009

Time for some more seasonal recipes to help you eat locally and live frugally!

What's in season in August/September?

To find out what's in season in your area, you can google "produce availability" and the name of your state, or choose your state on The latter has to be the worst designed and yet most valuable website I've seen. Anything you want to know about pick-your-own farms and preserving foods can be found there.

If you live in North Carolina, you will likely see the following fruits and vegetables at the farmer's market this month: apples, butter beans, cabbage, cantaloupe, field peas, grapes, green beans, leafy greens, okra, peaches, peanuts, pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, watermelon, zucchini.

Seasonal Recipes for Late Summer

Another stir fry to start off with. I like stir fries because you can generally swap out the vegetables for whatever's in season, despite what the recipe calls for. Stir fries are also great for summer because they are quick and easy and don't involve the oven.

Peanut Noodles
(from The Cook's Encyclopedia of Vegetarian Cooking)

COST: $2 per serving*

7 ounces medium Chinese egg noodles
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
12 ounces zucchini, roughly chopped
generous 3/4 c. roasted unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped

For the dressing:
1/4 c. olive oil
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 fresh red chile, seeded and finely chopped
3 Tbsp. snipped fresh chives
1-2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
snipped fresh chives, to garnish
  • Cook the noodles according to the package instructions and drain well.
  • Meanwhile, heat the oil in a very large frying pan or wok and cook the garlic and onion for 3 minutes, or until beginning to soften. Add the peppers and zucchini and cook for another 15 minutes over medium heat, until beginning to soften and brown. Add the peanuts and cook for 1 minute more.
  • Whisk together the olive oil, grated lemon zest and 3 Tbsp. of the lemon juice, the chile, chives, and balsamic vinegar to taste. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Toss the noodles into the vegetables and stir-fry to heat through. Add the dressing, stir to coat and serve immediately, garnished with fresh chives.

This week, I attempted to use fresh butter beans since I can get them locally from the farmer's market and can't find an organic version in a can. But the butter beans from the farmer's market look and taste more to me like a lima bean than the butter beans I'm used to, so I'm not sure about them yet. Either way, they tasted great in this recipe, which is one of my favorites.

(For another great butter bean recipe, check out the Butter Bean Burgers.)

Garlic Herb Pasta

COST:$ 1.50 per serving*

1/3 c. softened butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 c. parmesan cheese
mushrooms, sliced
2 cups cooked butter beans
1/2 box rotini
1 Tbsp. fresh chives
  • Cook pasta according to package directions. Just before draining, reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water and set aside.
  • Saute mushrooms in a little bit of oil until tender.
  • Stir together butter, garlic, thyme, lemon juice, and pepper until smooth.
  • Add mushrooms, garlic butter, butter beans, and parmesan cheese to pasta.
  • Gradually add the reserved cooking liquid, tossing constantly over low heat as the butter and cheese melt to form a sauce.
  • Add chives and toss again. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

This is a new recipe that we just tried tonight. My husband and I both enjoyed it, but the kids wouldn't touch it (even though I got whimsical and called them "zucchini boats"). I think it was too spicy for them. If I make it again, I'll substitute tomatoes for the chiles and use fresh red pepper instead of the pimientos. Also, I used the recipe for stuffing mix from the More with Less cookbook.

Stuffed Zucchini

COST: $1.40 per serving*

4 medium zucchini
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 c. butter
1 (4 oz.) can green chiles, drained
1 jar (2 oz.) diced pimientos, drained
1 1/2 c. herb-seasoned stuffing mix (dry)
3/4 c. mozzarella or Monterey Jack cheese
  • Heat 2 inches water to boiling. Add zucchini. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain. Cool slightly.
  • Cut each zucchini in half lengthwise. Spoon out pulp. Chop pulp coarsely.
  • Place zucchini cut side up in ungreased baking dish.
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Cook and stir onion in butter in a frying pan until the onion is tender. Stir in the chopped pulp, chiles, pimiento, and stuffing mix.
  • Divide stuffing mixture among zucchini halves. Sprinkle each with about 1 Tbsp. of cheese.
  • Bake uncovered until hot, about 30 minutes.

The following recipe was submitted by my friend Maren. I haven't tried it yet, but it sounds super delicious!


Finely dice any of the following. We like to experiment, the basics being the same (tomatoes, peppers, etc):

Tomatoes (I choose low-acid because I have reflux, but grape tomatoes, beefsteak, any of those work)
Bell peppers (yellow, red, green, purple for color)
Sweet onion (vidalia or a different kind)
Green onion
Garlic, very finely minced
Beans (we like black, pinto, or great northern)
Avocado (decreases the life of the salsa, so only add to what you will eat within 6 days or so)
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Some kind of hot peppers (our faves include habaneros, jalapenos, cayenne, Hungarian wax, etc)
*don't forget the gloves when dealing w/hot peppers unless you want burning hands for a couple days*
Secret ingredients: half a bottle of Italian dressing & a half cup of sugar per large mixing bowl of salsa
  • Mix everything together and then let it "age" in the fridge. This step is essential so the flavors can leech out and combine.
  • Reminder again: wear gloves when handling hot peppers or your hands and everything your hands touched (eyes, cheeks, mouth, etc) will burn for a couple of days. To decrease the heat of a pepper, leave out the seeds and white ribs of the pepper.
  • Sometimes we'll mix a batch up and then decide it needs something else. We'll add it and let it sit a day more if necessary.
  • For extra fun, add an acidic fruit such as pineapple, mango, or peaches.

Other great recipes for late summer:

Green Bean directed me to this recipe for All Day Apple Butter at

Prudent and Practical has a recipe for homemade applesauce.

Going Green Mama
has been on a cooking roll with her grandmother's recipes. It all looks delicious.

Green for Nothing provides several seasonal recipes ranging from the grill to the pasta bowl.

This will be an ongoing series of posts throughout the year. If you would like to participate, you can:
  1. Post a recipe on your personal blog, and add the link to the comments of this post.
  2. Email your recipe to consciousshopperblog [at] gmail [dot] com, and I will include it in the next post.
  3. Post a recipe on your personal blog, email the link to consciousshopperblog [at] gmail [dot] com, and I will include it in the next post.
*Note that all costs are estimates based on prices in my area. Your costs may vary.

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Noteworthy Green: Green Envy, Flower Pod Stamps, The Pill, and More...

>> Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Check out my latest post at the Green Phone Booth: Overcoming Green Envy.

But after a few months of reading, I began to feel a new, uncomfortable feeling: green envy. Those bloggers seemed to have all the latest green technologies and toys. Their houses were decorated with beautiful sustainable materials. They wore eco-friendly clothing and drove energy efficient cars. Their children played with handmade toys made from natural materials, and they would have never let their babies drink from a plastic bottle.

I began to feel like an olive green gal blogging in a crayon box filled with forest greens. I can't afford all that stuff - green or not! And if I'm not buying all those "green" products, does that make me less green? Read more...

And other items of interest:

:: Eilleen at the Simple-Green-Frugal Co-op gives some amazing tips for reconstructing clothing. I really need a sewing machine...

:: Maya*made has examples of how to use flowers and pods for stamping fabric and material. Love it!

:: Green Bean at The Green Phone Booth has the most beautiful frontyard edible garden I've ever seen.

:: EcoYogini overshares about her use of the pill, but it was very interesting so I'm glad she did.

:: The New American Dream takes a historical look at the clothesline and invites you to post a picture of your clothesline on their Facebook page. Does my indoor clothesline count?

:: Greening Families provides information on how to turn your backyard into a wildlife habitat - and then get your yard certified with the National Wildlife Federation.


I Need...Water (indoors)

>> Monday, August 10, 2009

I'm working on being more conscious of my water use this month. Water conservation is one of those great ways I can save money so I can shift my savings to my grocery bill, and as we're still adjusting to this house (been here a month), it's a good opportunity to start off right with our water use. And besides, water is really, really important (duh).

(And by the way, am I the only one who was freaked out by the last James Bond movie?)

I've put together this list of all the tips I could find on ways to conserve water, ordered as usual from easy to hard. My focus here is on indoor water use - I'll talk about outdoor use in another post.


  • Fill up your dishwasher all the way before running it.
  • Conserve water when washing dishes by filling up both sides of the sink - one with hot water to wash in and one with lukewarm/cool water to rinse.
  • Only wash full loads of laundry. Also, fill up the washing machine to the appropriate level depending on the size of your load.
  • Keep a pitcher of water in the fridge for cold drinks rather than running the tap until it's cold.
  • Wash vegetables, fruits, and herbs in a bowl of water rather than running water. Use the collected water on your garden. You can also use cooled pasta water, potato water, and the water from steaming vegetables.
  • Plug the tub as soon as you turn the water on, and then adjust the temperature while the tub is filling.
  • Defrost food in the refrigerator rather than under running water.
  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth and shaving.
  • Don't rinse your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. Wipe them off with a dishrag or use the method I describe here.
  • Reuse your towels multiple times to avoid creating extra laundry. Also wear your clothes more than once (not underwear).
  • Don't use the toilet as a trash can.
  • Take baths family style - i.e., Mommy and baby, Mommy and Daddy, small kids together.
  • Take shorter showers. Shorten your shower time by not shaving in the shower or washing your hair every other day. (My husband says this is a Baby Step. See the below section on "Where I'm At" to see why I say it's a Jogging Stride step.)
  • Use a refillable water bottle to cut down on the amount of glasses that need to be washed each day.
  • Monitor your water bill to be on the watch for water leaks.
  • Compost vegetable scraps instead of using the garbage disposal.
  • Replace showerheads with low-flow varieties and install aerators in your faucets.
  • Upgrade your toilet to a more efficient model or put a bottle of water in the tank.
  • Turn off the water in the shower while you lather up. Turn it back on to rinse.
  • Keep a bucket in the shower to catch warming-up water. Use it to flush the toilet.
  • Check your city codes to find out if you can re-route your plumbing to use grey water in your yard rather than sending it to the sewage plant.
  • Shower every other day.
  • If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down.
  • Consider a compostable toilet.
  • Pee on your garden.

If these tips have only wet your appetite for more, the best resource I found on water use is at Water Use It Wisely.

Tips for the Budget Conscious
All of these water saving tips can also save you money, but several of the Jogging Stride tips involve a small initial investment. Here are my suggestions for those:
  • I did a quick search on prices for compost bins, compost tumblers, and vermiculture stations, and they seem to run about $100 and up. I'm putting together a homemade worm bin that shouldn't cost me more than $40 total, including the worms. I'll provide more details soon, but you can easily find instructions for making your own compost bin (with or without worms) on the Internet.
  • I've been staring at my showerheads since we moved in wondering how I can tell if they're low-flow or not. Here's a tip from the aforementioned Water Use It Wisely site: "If your shower fills a one-gallon bucket in less than 20 seconds, replace the showerhead with a water-efficient model." Don't waste money replacing a showerhead that's already efficient!
  • Unless you already have plans to upgrade your toilets, it's much cheaper just to put a bottle in the tank. Just don't use a brick - it could break the toilet!

Where I'm At
Good on the Baby Steps. Working on the Jogging Stride. Do one of the Marathon Runners (and I'll let you guess which one).

My biggest downfall with water use is long showers. It is one of my eco-sins. The thing is, I don't feel like I'm dawdling in the shower. It really takes me that long! But I do keep my showers far hotter than I should (and I crank up the heat throughout the shower to get that good "frog in a pot of boiling water" effect).

Photo by Snap

This post was included in the Carnival of the Green #193 at EcoChic.

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Time for More Seasonal Recipes

>> Sunday, August 9, 2009

I'll be doing another post with seasonal recipes on Thursday, so if you have any awesome recipes, email them to me at consciousshopperblog at gmail dot com. Or post them on your personal blog and email me the link.

Apple season starts this month, so I'd really love a good applesauce recipe if you have one! Or apple butter!

To find out what's in season in your area, you can google "produce availability" and the name of your state, or choose your state on The latter has to be the worst designed and yet most valuable website I've seen. Anything you want to know about pick-your-own farms and preserving foods can be found there.

If you live in North Carolina, you will likely see the following fruits and vegetables at the farmer's market this month: apples, butter beans, cabbage, cantaloupe, field peas, grapes, green beans, leafy greens, okra, peaches, peanuts, pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, watermelon, zucchini.

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Nature Walk at North Hills Park

>> Friday, August 7, 2009

I try to help my city boys develop a love of nature by spending a lot of time outdoors. We go to the playground, walk on the greenways, feed the ducks, throw rocks in the lake, and inspect the bugs and plants. I'm proud that my boys can tell the difference between a deciduous tree and a conifer and can identify many types of trees and flowers.

Here are some highlights from our walk this morning at North Hills Park:

The greenway at the park spirals down a great big hill. My boys took off on the path so quickly I could barely keep up.

After a few minutes, they decided to offroad it.

They found an uprooted tree and played "King of the Hill" on its roots.

Back on the path, Third Son stopped to inspect some rocks.

First Son showed off his strength by hoisting a fallen branch into the air (and then carrying it up the path for awhile).

Time for the hike back up the hill. Third Son worked hard to keep up with his brothers.

Look at those chubby little legs!

Back at the playground, Second Son wrestled with one of the diggers. Those things take some coordination!

North Hills Park is located at 100 Chowan Circle in Raleigh. It includes a playground, a tennis court, a baseball field, restrooms, and access to one of Raleigh's great greenways.

Have you taken any good nature walks lately?

*Long time readers of this blog may have noticed that this is the first time I've ever posted pictures of my kids. I also included a picture of my oldest on my last post at the Green Phone Booth. Why this sudden change?

I've been debating for awhile about whether or not I should include more pictures of my personal life. On the one hand, I think it makes the blog more enjoyable to read. On the other hand, I worry about my children's safety. I almost went the whole nine yards and called them by name, but at the last minute, I chickened out. Note also that none of these pictures give a good view of their faces.

Lots of other bloggers post pictures of their children online without a thought, and my husband insists that I'm being overly cautious. Am I just paranoid? And if I post pictures of them, is it silly to still keep their names a secret? What do you all think?

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Make Your Own: Homemade Febreze

>> Thursday, August 6, 2009

I have a five-year-old bottle of Febreze that's starting to get on the low side. Obviously judging by how long I've had it, I don't use Febreze often. But let's face it. There are just some times when you need a quick and easy way to cover up a smell. (Like when your potty training child has an accident and you have guests coming over any minute. I know I'm not the only one who's been there...)

I decided to try making my own Febreze mainly because the ingredients list on the back of the bottle is awfully cryptic: water, alcohol, odor eliminator derived from corn, fragrance. "Odor eliminator derived from corn?" What does that mean? And what kind of fragrance? Natural? Synthetic? I have this thing about only using products when I can identify the ingredients.

I tried googling for homemade deodorizers, but most of the recipes I found involved fabric softener, which I haven't bought since back when I was battling Second Son's eczema (and we haven't missed it). I think you can probably find some eco-friendly fabric softeners, so if you're interested in that recipe, here's a link.

I think a greener solution would be this recipe from my favorite resource, Better Basics for the Home:

8 drops lavendar oil
4 drops each bergamot and clove oil
2 drops oil of peppermint
1/2 cup vodka
1/2 cup distilled water

Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle and shake well. Spritz into the air four or five times in areas you feel need freshening, being careful to avoid your eyes when spraying.

Other Resources

:: Best Green Home Tips uses the same recipe but with alternate essential oil combinations.

:: Darla Shine's Happy Housewives Club has a recipe with the simple combination of lemon juice, baking soda, and water.

:: About My Planet provides a number of suggestions for naturally eliminating odors, including making your own potpourri.

Photo by KitAy

This post was included in the Make It From Scratch Carnival on August 25 at It's Frugal Being Green.


Noteworthy Green: Daily Dinner Battles, Yellow Banana Slugs. PVC-free Back to School, and More...

>> Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Check out my latest post at The Green Phone Booth: The Daily Dinner Battle.

5:00. It's dinnertime. I know it's coming...

"Momma! What's for dinner?"

I hate that question. I dread it. I avoid answering it at all possible costs. Because I know what the response will be.

"I don't like ____ (fill in the blank with most vegetables, some fruits, anything with tomato sauce, anything slightly spicy...really anything that doesn't get its main flavor from cheddar cheese)." And then the next comment is always an emphatic, "I'm not going to eat it!" Read more...

And elsewhere on the Internet:

::Everybody's talking about Chipotle these days! Allie's Answers looks at the greener side of this restaurant chain.

::Peppermags has a link to some awesome lamps made out of recycled cassette tapes.

::Eco Yellow Pages tells us how to stop receiving a phone book. Really, in this computer age, who needs one anymore?

::The New York Times explains how white roofs can lower your air-conditioning costs by 20 percent.

::Nicholas D. Kristoff at the New York Times laments that "so few kids these days know what happens when you lick a big yellow banana slug."

::Fake Plastic Fish explains what's so wrong with PVC and provides a link to a guide for PVC-free school supplies.

If you live in Raleigh, be sure to remember my More (Summer) Fun, Less Stuff Raleigh event guide. I update it weekly!


Weekend Ramblings: Housing

>> Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sometimes on the weekends, I ramble about thoughts I've been having that week. Feel free to comment, add to my thoughts, or disagree with anything I say. But please remember that I don't like being called an idiot, even if I'm being one. So keep your comments respectful.

This week I've been thinking about where and how people choose to live. I don't mean like what part of the country. More like, urban vs. suburban vs. country. Big house vs. medium house vs. small house. Apartment/condo vs. townhouse vs. single-family home. Etc.

First some background on me:

I have lived everywhere. I have lived in small towns, medium cities, and large cities. I spent my childhood in the suburbs, my teenage years in the country, and currently live a mile from Raleigh's downtown. I've lived in small houses, large houses, dorm rooms, apartments, and townhouses.

My husband and I both spent most of our lives in small towns, and both of our parents currently live out in the country. When we lived in the DC suburbs, we constantly talked about buying some land in the country, building a passive solar home, and starting a small homestead.

Now we are in the city, and we love it. We love being able to walk everywhere and being so close to so many forms of entertainment. But when we visit our parents, our minds inevitably wander back to that dream of having some land in the country, and we end up in that never ending debate - buy a house in the city or the country?

It will be several more years before we'll be able to buy a house again, so I'm sure the debate will continue for awhile. But what we know for sure is that we never want to live in the suburbs again. We are just not suburb people. We love the buzz of the city and the tranquility of the country. We do not enjoy the monoculture of the suburbs. We do not enjoy long drives in traffic jams. We are not fans of McMansions, especially in neighborhoods where all the houses look the same. And we do not understand the appeal of carefully manicured lawns.

But I know that there are many, many, many people who choose to live in the suburbs. So I've been thinking about why. Why do people choose to live where they live?

Here are a couple of things that brought these thoughts to mind:

  • No Impact Man wrote a great post about why he supports a less impact life, and in the original post, he wrote (among other things) that in the future he hopes to be able to say, "I am glad we've stopped building suburbs, which make people unhappy." Several people commented that they live in the suburbs and are very happy, so he scratched out that line.
  • Grist points to a press release about a so-called environmentalist who has built a "6,700 square foot spectacular 'green' home."
  • We got caught in a massive traffic jam out in the country last week, and we were stopped for an hour in front of a bunch of homes set way back from the road. And between each house and the street was about 2 acres of lawn. No trees, no landscaping, no gardens of any kind. Just lawn.
So here are the thoughts I've been having. Feel free to comment.
  • What is the appeal of the suburbs? Why do so many people choose to live there?
  • Can a 6700 square foot house really be called green? Why do people want such big houses?
  • What is the appeal of huge lawns? Why do people like them?
  • As we move toward more sustainable lifestyles, will our houses have to get smaller? Will our lawns have to get smaller? Or will innovation enable us to maintain our current lifestyles?
  • How can we preserve what people like about the suburbs while still moving toward more sustainable lifestyles?
Photo by voxefx

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