Seasonal Recipes for Fall

>> Friday, October 30, 2009

On a whim one day, I decided to join a winter CSA with Coon Rock Farm, a sustainable farm in my area. I had heard a lot of good things about this farm (one person called it the Polyface Farms of North Carolina), and since there are zero organics available at my farmer's market, I decided to give it a try over the winter.

So I thought that instead of my usual way of doing these seasonal recipes, I'd just show you what I got in my CSA box and tell you how we used it (or plan to use it).

What's in season in October/November?

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, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, leafy greens, peanuts, pecans, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, turnips, and winter squash.

In My CSA Box

Week 1: (Sorry no picture of this week's offerings)

  • We ate the turnip greens in an omelet. We eat omelets with toast almost every week.
  • The arugula and d'avignon radishes went into a salad as a side dish for pizza. Pizza is another weekly menu item.
  • I made pesto with the basil with a side dish of the aforementioned salad.

Week 2:
  • I used half of the baby red russian kale and purple mizuna in a stir fry.
  • The tatsoi (a green similar to spinach) went into omelets.
  • We haven't used the Japanese white turnips yet.
  • We made a salad with the d'avignon radishes, radish greens, and the other half of the kale and mizuna, which we ate as a side dish with pizza and the following recipe for pumpkin pasta:
Pasta with Creamy Pumpkin Sauce

COST: $1.05 per serving*

8 oz. penne pasta
4 oz. yogurt cheese (or cream cheese)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
ground nutmeg to taste
  • Cook pasta according to package directions.
  • Place yogurt cheese, parmesan cheese, butter, and milk in a saucepan. Heat until melted, stirring frequently.
  • Add pumpkin. Cook until heated through.
  • Add pasta, tossing lightly. Sprinkle with ground nutmeg.

Week 3:
  • Once again, the tatsoi went into an omelet.
  • The arugula, radishes, radish greens, and some of the baby braising greens will go into a salad as a side dish for pizza and tortilla soup (made with some peppers and corn that I froze in the summer).
  • I'll be sautéing the Japanese white turnips from this week and last week for a side dish with golden chickpea patties using the following simple recipe from the CSA farm:
Sauteed Baby White Turnips

4 turnips with greens
2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
  • Cut greens off turnips and save for later.
  • Wash turnips and set aside to dry.
  • Heat oil in a frying pan on medium high.
  • When the oil is good and hot, throw in the whole turnips and stir well to coat with oil.
  • Cover and continue cooking for 5 to 10 minutes. When turnips start to brown, and in greens and cool all together until greens are slightly wilted.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Other great recipes for fall:

:: fresh 365 made Maple-Pumpkin Pasta with Blue Cheese and Sage and Black Bean and Sweet Potato Quesadillas.

:: It's Not Easy Being Green invented Crockpot Baked Stuffed Pumpkin with Apples.

:: Farmer's Daughter put together an Apple Tart.

:: A Veggie Venture baked custard inside of a whole pumpkin. She also has an interesting Supper Casserole with Pumpkin and Green Chile Cornbread Topping that I think could be altered to fit a vegetarian lifestyle.

*Note that all costs are estimates based on prices in my area. Your costs may vary.

Related Posts:


How Can I Support a Green Economy?

>> Thursday, October 29, 2009

In this sermon of the Green Jobs Gospel, we'll look at what you can do to help build up the green economy.

At the beginning of this year, Obama passed the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to boost our struggling economy. $41 billion of that act are allocated to clean energy and energy efficiency projects. Below, I've described some of the ways that money has been allocated and what you can do to make sure the money is used to make our economy clean, green, and fair for everyone.

:: Weatherization Assistance Program

Goal: To reduce the energy bills of low-income families through energy efficiency or renewable energy. Examples of ways the funds can be used include:

  • Adding insulation
  • Tune-ups, repairs, or replacement of A/C or furnace.
  • Installation of fans
  • Weatherstripping and caulking around doors and windows
Allocated Funds: $5 billion distributed through states

Eligibility: Dwellings occupied by families with income below 200% of the federal poverty level. (The federal poverty level for a family of four is $22,050; 200% of that is $44,100.) Both renters and homeowners are eligible for this program.

What can I do?

  • Find out if you're eligible for this program and apply for assistance through your state.
  • Spread the word to others who might be eligible.
More information:

:: State Energy Program (SEP)

Goal: To promote energy conservation and reduced dependence on foreign oil. Examples of ways the funds can be used include:
  • Energy efficiency projects, including energy audits of buildings
  • Renewable energy projects
  • Transportation energy efficiency
  • Education and training for building designers and contractors
Allocated Funds: $3.1 billion

Eligibility: States, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. Depending on the state's plans for the money, there may be subgranting to businesses, public and private organizations, and local governments.

What can I do?

  • Find out how your state plans to use its portion of the money and advocate for the projects you feel are important.
  • Find out if your business or organization is eligible for a subgrant.
More information:

:: Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program (EECBG)

Goal: To improve energy efficiency and reduce energy use and fossil fuel emissions

Allocated Funds: $2.8 billion ($1.6 billion has already been distributed)

Eligibility: U.S. states, territories, local governments, and Indian tribes

What can I do?
  • Find out if your state or local government has applied for a grant. If so, advocate for the projects you feel are important. If not, ask why not.
More information:

:: Competitive Grants for Green Jobs Training

Goal: To prepare workers for careers in energy efficiency and renewable energy. The funds can be used in training for jobs such as:
  • Construction of energy efficient buildings
  • Renewable energy
  • Energy efficient vehicles
  • Biofuels
  • Deconstruction and materials reuse
  • Energy audits
  • Manufacturing of sustainable materials
Allocated Funds: $500 million divided between five separate grant programs:
  • State Labor Market Information Improvement
  • Energy Training Partnerships
  • Pathways Out of Poverty
  • State Energy Sector Partnerships and Training
  • Green Capacity Building
Eligibility: Varies from program to program but includes non-profits, government agencies, and labor organizations

What can I do?
  • Find out if you are a part of an organization that is eligible for any of these grants.
More information:

What else can I do?
  • Support The Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act which supports improvements in the green jobs sector and also provides provisions for job training.
  • Elect officials that support a green economy.
  • Write or call your officials to let them know you support a green economy.
  • Be informed about the ways your state and local governments are using the federal money.
  • Get involved with local organizations that advocate for green improvements in your community, such as public transportation, energy efficient construction, and renewable energy.
  • Support national organizations that push for green jobs and climate legislation, such as Green for All and 1Sky.


Noteworthy Green: Not In Season, Green Halloween, Coal River Mountain, and More...

>> Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Check out my latest post at The Green Phone Booth: In Season? Not so much...

My last post here at the Booth was my tribute to seasonal eating. "Jackie" commented on that post:
I'm having such a hard time with this right now. The eco-geek in me REALLLLLY wants to eat as locally and seasonally as possible, but truth be told, I don't like winter veggies very much here in Chicago. I'm not quite sure how to get around that one small fact, other than canning or freezing, which I am too late to do. Your comment about feeling deprived rings true and hard for me. Any suggestions??
I thought this was a great question, so I wanted to open it up to all of you and get your insights.

And elsewhere on the Internet:

:: Green Halloween has the best list of alternate "treats" I've ever seen. I'm wishing now that I didn't already buy those organic lollipops.

:: Whip Up has another refashion round up. Love these!

:: Courtney at The Greenists says, "I'd like to buy the world a non-carcinogenic, responsibly packaged, healthier alternative to Coke." I just really, really like that title.

:: Fake Plastic Fish ran into Jackson Browne and got him to rant about bottled water. So cool!

:: Grist describes a very interesting study that indicates that junk food is as addictive as heroin.

:: Smart Family Tips has a yummy looking soup mix recipe for those of you that are under the weather.

I'm now using Twitter to keep track of my noteworthy green reads. If you'd like instant knowledge of what I find interesting, you can find me on Twitter as consciousshoppr.

Photo by Jonathan Talbot


Blogger Awards

>> Monday, October 26, 2009

I got two blogger awards this week, so I'm going to knock them out at once. First, this one from Cherie at Renaissance Garden:

Thanks so much, Cherie!

The "rules" for the award are listed below:

1. Thank the person who gave this to you.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link the person who nominated you.
4. Name seven things about yourself that no one would really know.
5. Nominate seven "Kreative Bloggers."
6. Post links to the seven blogs you nominate.
7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know you nominated them.

Here are the seven things that you might not know about me:

1. I have career ADD. Someone tell me what I want to be when I grow up!

2. I met my husband at a talent show. We were both performing.

3. I worked as a private investigator for a few years. It wasn't as exciting as it sounds.

4. My favorite holiday is the Fourth of July.

5. Most people have never heard of most of the musicians/bands I listen to.

6. I am a Mormon.

7. I was valedictorian of my high school graduating class. (Can't believe I admitted that...I try to keep it a secret.)

Okay now that I've revealed all my secrets, here's the second award from Lisa at Retro Housewife Goes Green:

Thanks, Lisa!

Here are the rules:

1. Thank and post URL to the blog that gave the award.
2. Pass the award on to six brilliantly over the top blogs (blogs you love!) Alert them so they know to receive the award.
3. Copy and paste this quiz...Change the answers, ONE word only!!

1-Your cell phone? iPhone
2- Your hair? red
3-Your mother? awesome
4-Your father? awesome
5-Your favorite food? burritos
6-Your favorite drink? Diet Coke
7-Your dream last night? sucked
8-Your dream/goal? happy
9-What room are you in? Living
10-Your hobby? reading
11-Your fear? telephones
12-Where do you want to be in 6 years?
13-Where were you last night? home
14-Something that you aren’t? athletic
15-Muffin? Banana
16-Wish list item? Xtracycle
17-Where did you grow up? Kentucky
18-Last thing you did? FHE
19-What are you wearing? clothes
20-Your TV? small
21-Your pets? none
22-Friends? fun
23- Your life? good
24-Your mood? neutral
25-Missing someone? no
26-Vehicle? minivan
27-Something you aren’t wearing? shoes
28-Your favorite store? Target (it's a love/hate relationship)
29-Favorite color? blue
30-When was the last time you laughed? Today
31-Last time you cried? dunno
32-Your best friend? Melissa
33-One place you go to over and over? Franklin
34-One person who emails you regularly? Michael
35-Favorite place to eat? Pit

Now here some blogs I enjoy. They can take their pick for the award they like best...Or take them both! (Or take neither - I'm cool with that route.)

1. Arduous
2. maya*made
3. SouleMama
4. Smart Family Tips
5. It's Not Easy Being Green
6. Greening Families
7. The Grass Stain Guru


Weekend Ramblings: More on Consumption vs. Happiness

>> Sunday, October 25, 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.

Continuing with the topic from last weekend's rambling, I've been thinking more about consumption and environmentalism and how they relate to our level of happiness.

In his book, Colin Beavan spends a lot of time pondering his theory that we consume because we want to feel loved, and advertisements tell us that if we consume, it will make us feel loved and that will make us happy. But if the point is to feel loved, he queries, why don't we just skip the consumption and spend more time with people. Thus, Beavan concludes that if as a society we improve our social connections, we will feel less of a need to consume.

I agree with this idea to a point. But I also think there's some intrinsic pleasure in consuming that has nothing to do with the desire to be loved. An example:

For ten months while we were trying to sell our house, half of our stuff was staging our house in Maryland while the other half was in our apartment in Raleigh. During that time, I discovered how little we needed to get by and how much of our stuff was purchased not to fill a necessary role but to make our house look nice. It made me really think about our consumption habits.

But when we finally sold our house and got all of our belongings back together in one spot, it was like Christmas - only instead of getting new things, I was rediscovering old things. And once all of our furniture and decor was placed in a permanent spot, I looked around and felt a real sense of home - a sense I never got when our stuff was divided.

And even now, when I walk into the house, the first thing I think is, "My home is so beautiful," and I get this great feeling of satisfaction. The decor really shows off my style and tastes. Everything in the house is something I picked out, and I love it all.

So maybe I don't need all this stuff. But it still makes me happy.

Another example:

I have severe addictions to Diet Coke and chocolate. Sometimes at the end of a stressful day, I have an overwhelming urge to drink a Coke or eat some chocolate. I'm feeling unhappy, and Coke or chocolate are an instant pick-me-up.

Feeling like I shouldn't need to consume something to make myself feel happy, I've thought a lot about what role Coke and chocolate are really filling in my life and whether or not I couldn't get that same feeling from something else. But although I enjoy reading and music and crafting and yoga and even watching TV or spending time with my husband, they don't provide that instant feeling of gratification that I get from drinking a Coke or eating some chocolate.

I don't love the stuff in my house because I'm trying to make an impression on someone else. I love it because it's mine. And I couldn't replace the Coke or the chocolate with social experiences and get the same effect. So maybe consumption is not all about a desire to be loved.

What do you all think? Are there other reasons we consume? And do you think men consume for different reasons that women?


My Top Ten Favorite Posts

>> Thursday, October 22, 2009

I admitted a few weeks ago that sometimes lately I haven't enjoyed blogging. I've given a lot of thought to the reasons why, and one of those reasons is that many of my most popular posts (as in the posts that are viewed or commented on the most) are also my least favorites. Particularly my post Make Your Own: Homemade Febreze, which has been my most viewed post since I wrote it in August.

I'm glad I wrote that post because it has brought a lot of traffic to my blog, but I wrote it in about 15 minutes and it includes several recipes from other sources (not original content). With all the other posts that I've spent hours on and tried to show off my creativity and writing skills, it bugs the crap out of me that the post most people want to read is a recipe for homemade febreze.

So I decided to make a list of the posts I like the most - the ones where I think I was most creative, witty, or original and the ones I still think about sometimes. (It seems strange to say that I'm influenced by my own writing. I hope that doesn't sound conceited because I'm influenced by many other people's writing too! But I think that it's through my own writing that I process and develop my thoughts. Anyone else have that experience?)

Anyway, here are the posts that I've written that I love the most (in no particular order), some from The Conscious Shopper and some from The Green Phone Booth.

:: Clean, Green, and Fair for Everyone

:: Do It Yourself, But Do What You Enjoy

:: The 80/20 Rule for Going Green

:: How to Lower Your Grocery Bill by Not Following My Example

:: The Poor Man's Dilemma: How to Save Money When Living Paycheck to Paycheck

:: Do Personal Choices Matter? Yes, yes, yes!

:: Overcoming Green Envy

:: The Daily Dinner Battle

:: A Strong Community Equals a Happy Planet

:: In Season

Do you have favorite posts from your own blogs? I'd love to read some of your favorite writing!


Noteworthy Green: Pumpkin Season, Garden Lessons, Zero Waste, and More...

>> Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Check out my latest post at The Green Phone Booth: In Season.

(Do other bloggers have personal favorite posts? This article is in my top ten favorites of all the articles I've written over the past year.)

"Pumpkin season!" we shout, spotting the sea of pumpkins at the far end of the farmers market.

My boys dash up and down each row, fingers pointing excitedly. "Look at this one! Oooh, this one is so big. Can we get this one?"

We load a hefty white pumpkin into the stroller basket - picturing the grinning ghost we'll carve into its side - then toss in a couple pie pumpkins for good measure.


And elsewhere on the Internet:

:: Greenhab hosts this month's APLS Carnival on "proselytizing green." Very cool topic.

:: Jaime from Green Resolutions guest posts at The Green Phone Booth to share a list of lessons she learned from her first garden.

:: The New York Times reports that zero waste is moving into the mainstream.

:: Also from the New York Times, a study from the National Academy of Sciences shows that "burning fossil fuels costs the United States about $120 billion a year in health costs."

:: An article from Grist asks, "So what if global warming is a hoax?" My sentiments exactly.

:: Last week, Carrie from It's Frugal Being Green mentioned on her weekly meal plan post, "I’m indulging in more fall flavors this week (might be my favorite food season)." That got me thinking...What's my favorite food season? I think probably early summer for strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, and corn. What's your favorite food season?

I'm now using Twitter to keep track of my noteworthy green reads. If you'd like instant knowledge of what I find interesting, you can find me on Twitter as consciousshoppr.
  • Looking for a way to get involved? Participate in the International Day of Climate Action on October 24 (that's Saturday!). Find an action near you!


October Round-Up

>> Monday, October 19, 2009

We're under budget, but our entertainment/miscellaneous spending is still way high. I'm not sure what we bought, and I hate months like that...

Monthly Spending (budgeted amount in parentheses)

  • Groceries: $606.13 ($650)
  • Transportation: $113.32 ($150)
  • Energy: $126.60 ($150)
  • Utilities: $42.54 ($50)
  • Entertainment/Miscellaneous: $508.70 ($400)
  • Clothes: $0 (no set budget)
  • TOTAL: $1,397.29 ($1,400)

The Numbers:
  • Trash: 3 bags of trash (13 gallon bags); 1 recycling bin with plastic, metal, and glass; 2 paper grocery sacks of paper
  • Miles Driven: 802
  • Average daily electricity use: 32 kWh
  • Average daily water use: 122 gallons

Best of...

Next Month I'll Be...


Weekend Ramblings: Consumption vs. Happiness

>> Sunday, October 18, 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 consumption and environmentalism and how they relate to our level of happiness. Mostly, I've been thinking about this because I've been reading No Impact Man's book, and that is one of his big things: we're consuming, and our consumption is destroying the planet, but it's not making us happy.

But I've also been thinking about it because my family does a lot of walking, and because the house we're renting is in an interesting location in Raleigh.

We live in a part of town that is being revitalized - some builders bought up all the run down or abandoned houses on a couple of streets and knocked them down to build new houses or restored them if they weren't in too bad of shape. What that means for us is that two blocks in one direction is a historical neighborhood filled with beautifully restored old houses running half a million dollars and up, and two blocks in the other direction are really run down (sometimes crumbling apart) houses and apartments.

We walk through the rich neighborhood to get downtown, to my husband's work, and to my son's school, and I love to admire the big old mansions, manicured landscapes, and (because we live in the South) furnished front porches. I love the idea of a porch where you can sip tea and swing and admire your flowers and call out to your neighbors as they pass.

But in the four months that we've lived in this house, I've never once seen anyone sitting on the porches of those big beautiful houses. Sometimes I pass people jogging on the sidewalk, sometimes there are other families with kids at the playground. I know they must hang out in their yards sometimes because they've got to put in some effort to make their yards so beautiful, right?

But I've never once seen anyone swinging on a porch, sipping tea, admiring their flowers, and calling out to their neighbors as they pass.

You know where I always see people out on their porches? Going the other direction, through the poorer part of town. They don't have lovely wicker furniture (sometimes just some folding chairs), they don't have beautiful yards (usually just a few overgrown shrubs). But they're always out there on their porches, calling out to us as we pass: "How ya'll doin' today? On your way to the library?"

I think most of those people on the poorer side of town would happily trade away those leisurely front porch chats for nice houses, nice yards, nice stuff, nice jobs. But what I wish is that we as a society could find a way to have both. To have beautiful houses with covered porches and swings and flowers, but also to enjoy our houses and porches and swings and flowers.

What do you all think? Is it possible to have both? Or do we have to work so hard to be able to have the nice houses and stuff that there's no time left to enjoy what we have? What do you think is the solution?

Photo by gailf548

Related Posts:


Who Cares about the Freakin' Polar Bears!

>> Thursday, October 15, 2009

First off, I need to apologize to my mom for the potty language that appears in this post. Although I have a bad addiction to the words darn, crap, and freakin', I don't usually mess around with the hard words. But today is Blog Action Day and the topic is "climate change," and that topic warrants a little bit of a potty mouth.

First in this great quote from an article on Grist yesterday:

They say that everyone who finally gets it about climate change has an “Oh, shit” moment—an instant when the full scientific implications become clear and they suddenly realize what a horrifically dangerous situation humanity has created for itself.
My "oh, shit" moment came almost a year ago when a friend sent me this video about the effects of climate change on a small island nation called Kiribati, where my friend had served in the Peace Corps.

Up until then, I had a vague idea that climate change might someday have an effect on people, but after I watched that video, it dawned on me that climate change was not a might or a someday. It was already affecting people, and it was only going to get worse. I believe my exact thought was:

"Who cares about the freakin' polar bears!!!!"

Why did environmentalists persist in peddling pictures of stranded polar bears when climate change was going to have a drastic effect on people? Already is effecting people?

Now, don't get me wrong. I think polar bears are beautiful creatures (and look super cute drinking a Coke in those ads at Christmas). But when I see pictures of polar bears losing their homes due to climate change, I think, "That is so sad."

When I see pictures of people losing their homes due to climate change, I think, "Oh, shit."

If you haven't had your "oh, shit" moment yet, take some time to explore the Climate Orb (put together by the TckTckTck Campaign) to put a human face on the climate change issue. Then tell your leaders that you support a global climate deal that is ambitious, fair, and binding.


Noteworthy Green: Green Missionaries, Cockroaches, Clotheslines, and More...

>> Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Check out my latest post on The Green Phone Booth: Are You an Effective Green Missionary? Take the Quiz and Find Out!

Taking a hint from girlie magazines, I've prepared a little quiz to help you figure out what kind of green missionary you are. Good luck!

Take the Quiz

1. After reading Fast Food Nation, you've decided to stop eating at fast food restaurants. The next time you see your co-worker eating a Big Mac, you:

a) tell her, "That is so disgusting! How can you eat that!"

b) don't say anything then, but later you tell her, "I read an awesome book called Fast Food Nation. Would you like to borrow it sometime?"

c) pat yourself on the back for making smart choices about your health and the health of the planet.

Read more.

And elsewhere on the Internet:

:: In Women We Trust is hosting this month's Green Mom's Carnival on "Standards."

:: Toxic Free NC provides tips for ridding your home of cockroaches. Down with cockroaches! Long live humans! [via New Raleigh]

:: The New York Times has an eye-opening expose on e. coli and the meat industry. Dare you to eat a hamburger after reading this.

:: Also from The New York Times, innovative ways to green the suburbs. This would make Van Jones proud.

:: And let's not forget this New York Times article on the debate over "wind energy drying devices" - clotheslines!

:: My favorite post of the week from Fake Plastic Fish about the new documentary Tapped. Triangle residents - you'll want to read this!

:: And finally, my favorite quote of the week from Truffula Mama at The Green Phone Booth: "
If we take, we must necessarily give back."

I'm now using Twitter to keep track of my noteworthy green reads. If you'd like instant knowledge of what I find interesting, you can find me on Twitter as consciousshoppr.
  • Looking for a way to get involved? Call your Senators and tell them you support a strong clean energy and climate bill.


Sustainability or the Price of Sweet Tea

>> Tuesday, October 13, 2009

This post is my submission for the Green Moms Carnival which will be hosted this month by Mary Hunt at In Women We Trust. The topic is "standards" with a specific look at Walmart's sustainability index.

Yesterday, I gave a little background information in preparation for my post today. With this background in mind, Mary asked us to ponder the following statement:

Wal Mart and other big box stores are developing a sustainability index. I don't have the $250,000 it costs to get a seat at the table, but if I had a seat there, this is what I'd want to make sure is in that index criteria..."

Thinking about this subject reminded me of a novel I read last year called Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill. It was a sad but beautiful account of a brave woman in the mid-1700s, describing her abduction from her home in Africa, her trials as a young slave on an indigo farm in South Carolina, her escape to freedom in Canada, and finally her aid to the abolitionists in England.

It might seem strange that Wal-Mart would remind me of a novel about slavery, but there was one particular scene in the book that I've often thought of as I've learned more about environmentalism and social justice.

The heroine, Aminata, is talking to an Englishman who is connected to the slave trade. Aminata tells him about her life, and seeing his sympathy, she asks him how the British can continue to participate in slavery.

The man replies, "Ninety-nine Englishman out of a hundred take their tea with sugar. We live for our tea, cakes, pies, and candies. We live for the stuff, and we will not be deprived."

The price of sweet tea...

I recognize that the scene from this novel was completely fictional, but I have heard this same attitude in real life from
modern corporations. And that includes Wal-Mart. "Our customers demand cheap products," they say. "Manufacturing our products in countries with fewer environmental regulations and lower human rights standards is the only way to meet the demand for cheap products."

I have also heard that attitude from the mouths of consumers. "We are just pawns in the system," one friend said. "It's not our fault, and there's nothing we can do about it...But that doesn't mean we shouldn't take advantage of it!"

It seems like everyone wants to blame everyone else for the problems with the system. The corporations blame the consumer for demanding cheap products. The consumer blames the corporation for making poor manufacturing decisions. It's everyone's fault and no one's fault. And nobody really cares...As long as we all get what we want.

Even those of us who don't regularly shop at Wal-Mart have to recognize the importance of the development of this sustainability index. While laws and regulations stutter to a standstill in Congress, Wal-Mart's index will force their 100,000 suppliers to action, leading to improvements and accountability throughout the manufacturing world and hopefully providing customers with an easier way to make informed decisions in the marketplace.

But the demand for ever cheaper products by Wal-Mart and other big box retailers is at the base of our environmental degradation and global human exploitation. The case could be made that Wal-Mart is the root of many of our problems. Can the world's biggest bully make an about face to become the biggest influence in our transition to sustainability?

So this is what I would say to Wal-Mart: Are you committed to sustainability? Are your intentions true? Will you make the standards strong enough to make a difference? Will your lifecycle assessments push for a cradle-to-cradle standard? Will you put an end to ridiculously wasteful packaging? Will you take a stand for safety and quality? Will you establish accountability for social injustices? How will you measure compliance to the standards? (Right now, it looks like they just have to be able to answer "yes" to a bunch of questions. Honestly, that's a fairly meaningless way of measuring sustainability.)

Most importantly, I want to know, if compliance to sustainability standards means higher prices and your customers balk, will you drop out of the game?

And since Wal-Mart only deserves a portion of the finger-pointing, I would ask everyone to ask themselves: Was cheap sweet tea worth the price of slavery? Are cheap products today worth the cost to sustainability?

Photo by prakhar

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A Pre-Carnival Post

>> Monday, October 12, 2009

I'm writing a post for tomorrow for the Green Moms Carnival. The topic is "standards" with a specific focus on Wal-Mart's plan to create an international sustainability index. Since some of you might not know much about this index, I wanted to provide a little background information first.

Wal-Mart's plan is to have their suppliers complete a survey on the sustainability of their products. This information will be used to create lifecycle assessments of the products, which will eventually be available to consumers - most likely as a label on the products.

Wal-Mart has prepared an initial 15-question survey, covering Energy and Climate, Material Efficiency, Natural Resources, and People and Community, but they have invited others to help further develop the survey and create the sustainability index by participating in a sustainability consortium.

Now here's the kicker.

The cost to be a part of this group is $250,000. So who gets a say in the development of this important index? Only the big boys. Consumers are not invited.

Is that fair? And if I could come up with $250,000 and participate in the consortium, what would I want to make sure is in the index criteria? That's what I'll be looking at tomorrow...

If you could participate in the consortium, what would you say?

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What Is a Green Collar Job and Why Should I Care?

>> Thursday, October 8, 2009

In this sermon of the Green Jobs Gospel, we'll start with the basics.

What Is a Green Collar Job?

:: blue-collar employment that has been upgraded to better respect the environment

:: family-supporting, career-track, vocational, or trade-level employment in environmentally-friendly fields

(as defined by Van Jones in The Green Collar Economy)
A green collar job is blue collar work transformed to meet the needs of a greener economy. In general, it requires higher education than a high school degree (such as vocational training or a trade license) but not necessarily a college degree. Most importantly, green collar jobs involve good pay, job security, and career potential.

Industries with green-collar opportunities and sample jobs in those fields include:

Waste Management

"More than 56,000 recycling and reuse centers across the country already employ over 1.1 million people. Entry-level jobs in recycling include collection, sorting, driving, and loading and can lead to advanced positions like operations manager. Entry-level jobs in materials-reuse operations include salvaging, sorting, driving, warehousing, packaging, and retail sales, after which an employee can move up to warehouse manager or floor manager."*
  • collecting, sorting, and processing recyclables
  • composting
  • salvaging materials and deconstruction of old buildings
  • refurbishing computers and other electronics
  • construction of new green homes and buildings
  • weatherization of existing homes and buildings
  • water-wise plumbing

"TreePeople predicts that about three hundred jobs will be created, including manufacturing and installation of water-capture systems, adapting landscaping to function as watershed, and maintaining the landscapes, trees, berms, cisterns, and other elements of the system." - referring to a specific landscaping organization and project in Los Angeles to build cisterns to capture rainwater*
  • water-wise landscaping
  • urban forestation
  • green roof maintenance
  • watershed creation and management
  • solar panel manufacturing and installation
  • wind turbine manufacturing and installation
  • geothermal
Public Transit

"Transit investments actually create many more jobs than highway construction boondoggles: per $1 billion invested only 42,000 jobs are created in highway construction versus 80,000 in transit capital projects and an additional 100,000 jobs in transit operations. And many more local and long-term jobs are created in transit than in highway construction." - referring to a study by the Surface Transportation Policy Project*
  • manufacturing of trains and construction of rail lines
  • operation of buses and trains
Automobile Industry
  • manufacturing hybrids and electric vehicles
  • maintenance and repair of hybrids and electric vehicles
*All quotes from Van Jones in The Green Collar Economy

Why Should I Care?

The availability of blue-collar jobs in America has been declining in recent years. Greening those jobs will revitalize many dying industries, fight outsourcing, create sorely needed employment opportunities, and give a boost to our floundering economy.

In some cases rather than creating new jobs, a transition from blue-collar to green-collar will create new opportunities for existing labor. For example, construction workers that have been out of work since the housing bubble burst will be able to find new employment in retrofitting homes and buildings. And the many people who've lost jobs in the collapse of the automobile industry would benefit from a transition to hybrids and electric vehicles (or even transitioning to manufacturing solar panels).

Additionally, gaining green collar skills can make a blue collar employee more marketable. A plumber that can install a solar-powered water heater or an electrician that can set up a solar power grid will be much more valuable to our future economy than plumbers and electricians who stubbornly cling to old skills.

Finally, even white collar employees should recognize a vested interest in this subject since each category of possible green collar jobs has the added potential for entrepreneurship and white collar employment.

How Can I Find Out More?


Noteworthy Green: Offsetting Your Impact, Red Shoe Bloggers, Green Myths, and More...

>> Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Check out my latest post at The Green Phone Booth: Negative Impact + Positive Impact = No Net Impact.

I kept thinking about it and calculating ways to solve my [car] problem and googling for ways to fit me and three kids on a bike until finally my husband was tired of hearing about it. "You've thought it all through," he said. "You're doing the best you can. Just give it up."

"But I can't!" I said. "Transportation is an area where we could really make a difference, but we're not!"

I've hit a wall in this category. I could sacrifice more but it would involve spending money we don't have or saying bye-bye to good friends because I can't reach their houses by public transportation or making grandparents miserable because they live too far away to see my kids. I could make more sacrifices, but it would make us unhappy. Should saving the planet make us unhappy?


And elsewhere on the Internet:

:: Kelly Diels guest posts at Problogger to explain why blogging is like The Wizard of Oz. I love this post and wish I could write that well!

:: Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai asks, "Are we on the wrong bus?" and encourages us to have courage to turn the bus around.

:: Maya*made does it again! I love this children's art display made from a priority mailer or cereal box.

:: Wisebread remembers ten retro household helpers that we should all start using again.

:: The Washington Post lists ten off-cited green myths that might be losing you money.

I'm now using Twitter to keep track of my noteworthy green reads. If you'd like instant knowledge of what I find interesting, you can find me on Twitter as consciousshoppr.

  • Looking for a way to get involved? Call your Senators and tell them you support a strong clean energy and climate bill.
Photo by SashaW


Quick Tip: Walk Score

>> Monday, October 5, 2009

In the market for a new house? Wouldn't you love to live in a walkable neighborhood?

Enter an address at Walk Score, and they will calculate the walkability of that neighborhood based on the proximity to stores, restaurants, schools, and parks on a scale of 0 to 100 (0 being Driving Only and 100 being a Walkers' Paradise).

Even if you're not planning a move, it's fun to try out your own address in Walk Score to test the walkability of your neighborhood. You might discover that you're closer to more stores and restaurants than you think. Maybe it will convince you to walk more!

Our current house gets a Walk Score of 72 out of 100: Very Walkable.

How does your house score?

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Happy Blogiversary

>> Sunday, October 4, 2009

I've been writing The Conscious Shopper for over a year now, so I thought it would be nice to take a moment to remember where I've been and look forward to where I'll be going.

Where I've Been

For many years, I had been transitioning to a greener lifestyle, but I started this blog to push me forward into some of the areas I had been making excuses about ("it costs too much," "I don't have enough time," "I live in North Carolina - not California or Seattle"). Here is the list I wrote a year ago of all the things that were "making me feel guilty" and what I've done about it since then:

:: plastic (find alternative products that don't involve plastic)

  • I'm careful about the plastic that I let into our home, and I'm making the plastic products we already have last as long as possible.
:: over-packaging (find products with less packaging, shop online less, buy less)
:: pesticides and chemical fertilizers (buy organic, plant a garden)
  • Most of the groceries we buy are organic. Unfortunately, our year-round farmer's market does not have any organic stands, so I'm looking into joining a CSA this year or switching to the Moore's Square farmer's market for the spring and summer. And I'll be planting my own organic vegetable garden next spring.
:: industrial farming (buy from small farmers, plant a garden)
  • See above
:: canned foods (can my own fresh fruits and vegetables, use dried beans)
  • I use dried beans, and although I haven't started canning my own fruits and vegetables yet, we've been eating mostly seasonally and have severely cut back on our canned fruit intake. (But until I can my own, we'll have to eat some canned fruits over the winter.)
:: drying my clothes in the dryer (get a drying rack)
  • I line dry all of our shirts and pants. For now, I've given up on the lofty goal of line drying all of our laundry, but I'd still like to get a drying rack for underwear, socks, and cloth diapers.
:: sweatshop labor (shop thrift stores, buy American)
:: dairy cows (drink soymilk, eat less cheese, find out if there are happy cows around here)
  • For awhile, we were doing half soymilk, half cow's milk, but then I read some things about soymilk...Think I need to research that some more. We do eat less cheese, and most of the time, we buy our milk from Maple View Farm, which is not organic or grass-fed but is local and comes in a reusable glass jar. (And they allow tours of the farm, which is generally a good sign.) I would prefer something better, but for now, it's the best I can find.
:: gas (ride a bike, get a bike trailer for the kids)
  • This is a continuing dilemma for me. My husband and First Son walk to work and school, and my other two boys and I walk anywhere that's within a mile from our house. But we still seem to be driving a lot. I'm hoping to get our monthly mileage down to 500 miles a month, excluding vacations.
:: wastefulness (buy less, fix what's broken, shop thrift stores)
  • See above answer from sweatshop labor. And I can still improve here. Darn Target!
:: eggs (buy free range eggs, get chickens someday!)
  • We buy our eggs from the farmer's market. Since it doesn't look like we'll be owning a home again any time in the near future, chickens are out for now.
:: advertising to children (watch less TV)
  • Could probably improve here. Our kids watch mostly On Demand programming (one or two hours a day), which only has one commercial per episode. In theory, that means they're exposed to fewer commercials, but it also means they watch the same commercials over and over and over. They have them memorized. I haven't noticed them asking for brand name products lately, though, like they were a year ago.
:: home energy usage (programmable thermostat, raise the AC, lower the heat)
  • We don't have a programmable thermostat - I've decided those are better for people who are gone half the day at work rather than someone like myself who is at home most of the time. But we kept our house at 60 degrees all last winter and at 82 all summer, and we kill our vampires.
:: paper (buy recycled and FSC certified paper)
:: food waste (compost)
:: water usage (low flow shower heads and faucets)
  • I've been focusing on conserving water - haven't checked if our showerheads and faucets need replacing yet. I could definitely still improve here. Also, at some point in the future, I'd like to install some water barrels. Wonder what my landlords would think...
There are still many areas where we could improve, but overall, I think we're on the right path.

Where I'm Headed

After doing it for a year, there are some days when blogging is a great big pain in the butt. Keep in mind that I have zero advertisements on this site - I don't make a cent from all of the effort I put into this blog. That is a completely conscious decision on my part (I think it would be hypocritical to say, "Help save the planet by buying less, and oh, by the way, check out the products of my sponsors..."). Also, I've designed this blog to be kind of a green resource center, which means that many of my posts have to be extensively researched before I write them. Which means that I spend a lot of my free time blogging.

Most of the time, I really love blogging, but some days, I have felt obligated to write a blog post when I would rather be doing something else. And more and more these days, I feel like I've been missing out on hobbies I used to enjoy but haven't done much lately - crocheting, crossstitching, scrapbooking, playing the guitar or violin. I would also like to learn to knit and sew.

The plan right now is to keep doing three or four posts a week, but don't be surprised if over time, those posts start petering down and I start blogging less and less. This seems to happen to a lot of green bloggers (especially those like me that are ad free), and I think it's actually inevitable. We start by changing ourselves, and we document every step of our green journey along the way. But eventually, we reach a point where there are still changes to be made but much fewer topics to blog about. We also start looking beyond ourselves for other ways to effect change, and that necessarily means we have less time.

But in the meantime, I've still got a few tricks up my sleeve. I have several posts planned over the next couple months about the green collar economy, and I have a long list of topics to add to the "I Need..." shopping guide. You can also expect many more book and film reviews, recipes, nature walks, and updates on my gardening experience. You might also be invited along as I learn to knit and sew. Actually, I think what you can expect the most is that this blog is going to get less informative and more personal.

But if that's not enough, there's always The Green Phone Booth, where honestly I've been publishing all my best posts lately. If you're not reading The Green Phone Booth yet, you really need to head over there. We've got some seriously talented ladies. (And don't worry, Green Bean. Even if I post less at The Conscious Shopper, I'm not going to flake out on you at The Green Phone Booth. I love writing there!)

So happy blogiversary to me! It's been a great year, and even though I'm not 100% sure what's in store for the future, I hope you'll stick with me. I've loved the camaraderie and support from all of you greenies, whatever shade of green you may be.

Photo by diongillard

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Spotlight on Raleigh: The R-Line

>> Friday, October 2, 2009

Those of you who hang on my every word and read all my posts both here and at The Green Phone Booth (Hi, Mom!) know that I've been obsessing about my car problem - my gas guzzling minivan. It would be a really stupid financial move for us to trade in our car right now, so I've been trying to find ways to drive less or to avoid driving at all. The R-Line is one solution that I've come up with.

The R-Line is Raleigh's downtown circulator bus service. It runs from Wilmington, up to Peace Street, over to Glenwood South, down to South St (in front of the Performing Arts Center), and back to Wilmington - basically a great big loop around the downtown area. (See map.)

We live just a few blocks from Wilmington, so its incredibly accessible to our house. And best of all, the R-Line is always 100% completely FREE!

I know most residents of Wake County, being the sprawling suburban paradise that it is, don't live within walking distance of the R-Line, but if you ever head downtown, consider parking your car and taking advantage of this great service rather than driving from point to point.

Here are some of the attractions you can get to using the R-Line:

:: Seaboard Station (including ACE Hardware, Logan Garden Center, and several restaurants)
:: Moore Square (including Marbles Kids Museum and numerous restaurants and art galleries)
:: Glenwood South (including numerous restaurants and shops)
:: Warehouse District (including The Pit and Goodwill)
:: Snoopy's on Hillsborough Street
:: North Carolina Museum of History
:: North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
:: Raleigh City Museum
:: State Capital Building
:: Performing Arts Center
:: Conference Center
:: Wake County Courthouse
:: a couple of post offices

From Glenwood South, it's an easy less-than-a-mile walk to Cameron Village, where you can find:

:: clothing and shoe stores
:: restaurants
:: grocery stores (Fresh Market and Harris Teeter)
:: salons and a barber shop
:: Rite Aid
:: jewelry and gift shops
:: Blockbuster
:: UPS Store
:: a drycleaner
:: a library
:: an eye care store
:: a cell phone store
:: a toy store
:: a sporting goods store
:: home decor shops (including Ten Thousand Villages)

It's also about a mile from R-Line stops on Glenwood Ave to both Pullen Park and Fred Fletcher Park.

My son's school is also 3/4 of a mile south of one of the R-Line stops, and I'm also looking into finding doctors and dentists closer to my house so we can walk there for well check-ups and regular cleanings. (Obviously if we're sick or drugged up, we wouldn't walk.) Now if only I could convince more of my friends to move downtown....

Have you tried the R-Line? What did you think?

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I do not accept money for writing reviews, but I do accept products for review and to giveaway. When posting a review, I fully disclose any free samples received from the company. I include information provided by the company in my reviews, but all opinions about the product are my own and I will not provide a good review for any product or company just because they sent me some free samples.


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